Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?

man holding stomach with hand over mouth to signify food poisoning

48 million Americans suffer food poisoning every year, with some 128,000 hospitalized and another 3,000 dying. Senior citizens and children under five are particularly vulnerable to more severe illness in cases of food poisoning. What happens if you experience severe symptoms and need to be hospitalized? Can you sue a restaurant for food poisoning, at least to help offset medical bills? Read our article to find out more.

What is Food Poisoning?

“Food poisoning” is a broad term describing a transient illness resulting from food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other disease-causing agents. Some of the most common pathogens related to food poisoning include, Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. ColiCampylobacter is the most common cause of diarrheal illness in the US, although all of these bacteria can cause diarrhea. 

Symptoms of food poisoning may vary depending upon the specific contaminant. However, typical symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping

More severe symptoms that can arise from food poisoning may include a high fever, bloody stools, dehydration, and malnutrition. 

In most, if not all cases, food poisoning can be prevented by proper handling and preparation of food. Those preparing the food should always wash hands before doing so. Meat should be cooked to recommended internal temperatures; all produce should be thoroughly washed and prepared on surfaces separate from raw meat. Dishes and cutlery should be sterilized before use. Any leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking (one hour if the temperature outside exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Can I Sue for Food Poisoning?

Yes, you can sue a restaurant or other food service provider for food poisoning if it was their negligence that made you sick. Prolonged illness can result in costly medical bills and loss of income from your job, not to mention pain and suffering. Those responsible should be held accountable. 

A food poisoning lawsuit will generally fall under one of two categories:

Strict Liability for Food Poisoning

If your food poisoning occurred as the result of adulteration, you can pursue legal action in the form of strict liability. Food adulteration occurs when an individual or individuals add a substance to a food item that lessens its quality, resulting in failure to meet governmental standards. For example, a manufacturer may add water or meat from other animals to a meat product to bulk it up. Or, someone may knowingly mislabel a product with a species not actually used or used to a lesser extent in the product. 

In these cases, your personal injury lawyer will help you sue the persons responsible under what is known as “strict liability.” Strict liability holds an entity legally responsible for an adverse outcome, regardless of that entity’s intent or any prior knowledge regarding the danger. In other words, even if a company claims they were unaware of any product tampering or adulteration, they must still compensate harmed individuals. 

Negligence Leading to Food Poisoning

If the food source itself was otherwise fine but you became ill due to the actions of staff or owners, you can sue for negligence. Employees may have been improperly trained in food safety, for example; or, the staff may have been told to use expired products to save money. Maybe the restaurant failed a health inspection but continued to operate illegally. Whatever the specific reason, if the actions or omissions of the restaurant resulted in your illness, you can sue for negligence. 

Proving Food Poisoning Cases

Proving that a specific restaurant or person caused your food poisoning can be difficult. If you suffered a severe illness that resulted in costly medical care and other damages, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney. Your lawyer will help collect evidence in order to build a compelling case and seek fair compensation for your suffering. 

Dave Roth is a highly qualified personal injury and insurance attorney who is dedicated to achieving justice for his clients. If you or someone you know has been hurt due to the negligence of another, call or go online today to set up your free consultation.