When Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 22494654Food poisoning, while highly inconvenient for customers and thus bad for business, is unfortunately not uncommon. But even if the same pizza place has given you food poisoning after two of the last three visits you made there, you still may not be able to make the case in court.

Typically, a food poisoning lawsuit will fall into the general category of product liability, or the idea that you purchased a defective product that caused you harm. One cause of this harm (and thus the strain of liability the restaurant would be responsible for) could be negligence–or not exercising reasonable care in their handling of the product they sold you. A second could be strict product liability–or proving that the food you consumed was defective and unreasonably dangerous. Most states have strict product liability laws. The third most probable option is suing for a breach of warranty–or that the food violated minimum implied warranty standards (most states have implied warranty).

Depending on your situation, there may be alternative options available to you–these are simply the three most common.

Proving liability in a food poisoning/contamination case entails proving that you can isolate the cause of your sickness directly to a specific food you ingested; then, you have to prove that food was contaminated, and that this contamination made you sick. This can get difficult if there is any gap in time between when you ate the food and when you first began experiencing symptoms of food poisoning.

A second consideration in deciding liability is in the extent of damages suffered. A short time of discomfort and minor inconvenience may not be sufficient for a compelling case, and frankly may not be worth the legal fees.

Your chances of a successful food poisoning case dramatically increase if you were hospitalized for your sickness, and especially so if you were not the only person who got sick. Jimmy John’s recently faced multiple lawsuits across 5 states for an E. coli outbreak which originated from contaminated clover sprouts. However, of the 25 recorded cases, about 5 lawsuits were filed.

Is it possible to sue for food poisoning? Yes. However if you were only out of commission for a few hours and didn’t suffer major damages, it’s probably best to accept that a lawsuit is probably not your best outlet for retaliation against the restaurant.


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