Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?


Jan Reburiano

You can sue a restaurant for food poisoning if you can prove your illness was caused by the restaurant’s negligence. Gather the right evidence to show that their food safety violations caused your damages. A food poisoning lawsuit may earn you a large enough settlement to cover your physical and financial losses.

To form as strong an argument as possible, you need a personal injury attorney to handle your claim. Each state has separate food handling laws all restaurants must follow, and you need a legal specialist in your state to help you gather the right evidence.

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What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning occurs when infectious organisms enter the body through consuming contaminated food. These organisms can take the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses, or even parasites if the restaurant is grossly negligent. Common types of food poisoning stated by the NHS include:

  • Campylobacter
  • E. Coli
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • Norovirus

Food poisoning is becoming more common as thousands die from food-related illnesses every year. Restaurants contribute heavily to these cases, as about 40% of outbreaks between 2017-19 were caused by sick restaurant workers.

“Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms of food poisoning range depending on your condition, but these are common symptoms you may encounter:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Infection

Severe cases of food poisoning may be fatal, so treat every case seriously and hold negligent restaurant owners responsible. Prevent further cases from happening to others through a personal injury consultation.

Common Causes of Food Poisoning

Most instances of food poisoning are preventable by restaurants following their state’s retail and food service codes. Even though states may have slight variations, there are common violations that occur in most restaurants. These common violations include:

  • Restaurant workers not washing their hands after using the restroom
  • Improper food handling and storage, leading to cross contamination
  • Not cooking food at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria inside
  • Serving spoiled or expired food

A CDC study found that certain produce groups contributed to nearly half (46%) of the 4,600 foodborne illness cases they studied, particularly from leafy vegetables. They mostly spread norovirus through improper care of their food.

The same study found that meat and poultry contributed to less overall cases, but caused 29% of fatalities from foodborne illnesses.

What Type of Lawsuit Do I File For?

If a restaurant serves mishandled food, either file a personal injury or a product liability suit, depending on your state. Gather the right evidence to prove that their negligent food handling caused your injuries. You can either file a lawsuit or settle in court if the insurance company offers you an adequate settlement.

Restaurants owe a duty of care to their customers to not serve contaminated food. You can sue a restaurant for food poisoning if you can prove that their breach of duty caused significant damages. If they offer an inadequate settlement, you can follow the uncertain route and file a lawsuit to fight for the compensation you deserve.

How to Prove a Food Poisoning Lawsuit

To prove a food poisoning lawsuit, you have to gather evidence that proves these four statements:

  • The restaurant owed you a duty of care
  • They violated their duty of care
  • Their violation caused your damages
  • Your damages are severe, trackable, and should be compensated for

There are some complications you should address when building your food poisoning lawsuit with your personal injury attorney. Food poisoning symptoms often occur days after the initial incident, so it may be difficult to prove which food caused your illness.

You may have to prove the restaurant broke your state’s product liability laws. They may have followed the right food handling protocols, but your body may have reacted negatively regardless. Also, your case may not involve damages that warrant a lawsuit from the start.

Of course, there are food poisoning incidents warranting a lawsuit, especially when multiple people were affected by the same restaurant. Proving negligence is easier when others can come forward to your defense against a restaurant’s harmful behavior.

Food poisoning cases can get so severe that the plaintiff may require hospitalization. In those cases, a lawsuit may be the best decision to cover such extreme damages. If you have questions about your incident and what actions to pursue, consult a personal injury attorney to have those questions answered.

Who is Liable in a Food Poisoning Lawsuit?

Restaurants are under strict liability laws in most states, meaning they’re liable for all damages done to you through their food. This benefits your case if you choose to pursue a liability claim against them.

What about Warnings on Uncooked Food?

You may have encountered consumer advisory signs outside restaurants and in menus, and wondered whether these warnings invalidate your claim. These signs are meant to notify you of potential dangers, not to immunize them from lawsuits.

If you can prove negligent food handling practices that caused you to be sick, you can still sue the restaurant for food poisoning.

Should I Sign This Waiver After Getting Sick?

Restaurants may offer you a coupon or free meal if you report food poisoning in their establishment. Along with the coupon, you may have to sign a waiver to accept these gifts.

If you want to sue the restaurant for food poisoning in the future, do not sign the waiver. Signing the waiver may forgo your ability to sue them for this food poisoning incident.

How Much Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

The amount you can sue a restaurant for food poisoning depends on your damages and negligence displayed by the restaurant. For severe cases like if pregnancy is involved, or if the food poisoning resulted in wrongful death, your settlement may be much more. Amounts can range from a few thousand to more than $1 million.

Talk to your personal injury lawyer about how much you’re owed, because certain states cap non-economic damages to certain amounts.

Types of Compensation You Can Collect

You may recover multiple types of compensation in a food poisoning claim. The hospital bills related to your food poisoning are recoverable. You may acquire compensation from lost wages. The prescription medication you need to recover may apply to your lawsuit as well.

Not only are your financial expenses payable, but emotional losses as well. You can prove damages like emotional distress through eyewitness accounts and medical records. Excess pain and suffering can be calculated the same way, despite having no objective way to quantify such damages.

Find Expert Legal Protection With LegalASAP

The best way to answer all your questions about food poisoning claims is through a personal injury attorney. Each case is different and may involve state-specific statutes you wouldn’t know about without a professional on your side.

If you need legal assistance, call LegalASAP and connect with the 500+ law firms on our network. We have attorneys all throughout the United States, eager to hear you out and defend your rights. If you need to speak with a legal representative, fill out this short evaluation form or call 888-927-3080.

Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.