Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

Tylene Welch  | 

You got sick. You’ve spent the last few hours (maybe longer) in bed or on the bathroom floor. You can’t keep anything down, and you’re feeling weak and tired. If things get any worse, you might end up in a doctor’s office. Or maybe you’ve already been to the doctors and missed work, and now you’re worried about paying your hospital bills. Was it the fast food burrito you ate the other night? Maybe it was the sushi you had over the weekend?

If you think you got food poisoning from a restaurant, you might be wondering what you can do about it. If the illness resulted in hospitalization or secondary complications, you deserve retribution. At the very least, you probably want to make sure this never happens to another customer again.

A case to sue a restaurant for food poisoning could be tricky. But if others got sick too, and you can prove the illness came from one restaurant, you might have a chance. This article will help you understand food poisoning cases and what you can do if you were affected by a recent outbreak.

Is It Food Poisoning?

Most people know they have food poisoning without visiting a doctor. The excruciating symptoms: stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea, can set in a few days or even just a few hours after eating contaminated food. But how do you know it’s food poisoning? Could it be an allergy you’re unaware of, or possibly a bad stomach flu?

Symptoms

The symptoms of food poisoning don’t last longer than a few days, but if your discomfort persists you might need to see a doctor and find out what exactly made you sick. You should also see a doctor if you have a high fever, feel dehydrated, or if you’re experiencing other serious symptoms.

Potential Causes

There are so many different types of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause food poisoning that it makes a confirmed diagnosis difficult to do. But doctors can do tests to narrow down the cause of your illness. If you’re considering suing a restaurant for food poisoning, you should see your doctor and try to get a diagnosis.

Food Poisoning Lawsuits

Food safety is a major concern in restaurants. But poor sourcing, storing, and food handling practices can contribute to illnesses like food poisoning at any time. A restaurant can be held liable if their practices led to multiple cases of food poisoning. Proving your case is going to be the difficult part. Here are some past known food poisoning lawsuits.

Known Food Poisoning Cases

  • Chipotle caused nearly 500 illnesses in 2015 ranging from E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus; with another outbreak in 2017. Chipotle ended up taking a confidential settlement for 100 of its customers who fell ill and whose illness was verified by medical tests.
  • Hundreds of Americans were sickened in the mid-2000s by salmonella contaminated peanut butter. A class action lawsuit against ConAgra resulted and the company reached confidential settlements with more than 750 people.
  • A listeria outbreak causing 20 deaths and thousands of illnesses resulted in a Canadian food distributor, Maple Leaf Foods, paying $27 million in settlements for victims and their families.
  • A group of office workers in Connecticut all became violently ill after consuming a catered lunch. The caterer was found liable and ordered to pay a $370,000 settlement.

These examples of food poisoning lawsuit settlements prove that a case for suing a restaurant isn’t a lost cause. But they also show that your power to win is in the number of victims, severity of symptoms, and proof of diagnosis.

Class Action Lawsuits

If you got food poisoning from a restaurant, you should consider pursuing a class action lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is when a group of people who all experienced the same or similar personal injuries by the same entity (like the restaurant causing your illness) sue as a group instead of individually. All class members will be represented in court by one representative plaintiff and their attorney. A class action lawsuit is likely your best chance at suing a restaurant for food poisoning.


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Tylene is a freelancer in Boise, Idaho. She's a self-taught personal finance hacker with zero debt. She eats avocado toast for breakfast.

This post was updated September 17, 2018. It was originally published August 22, 2018.