Can You Sue After Getting Food Poisoning at a Restaurant?

Get your free, no-cost case evaluation below

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

* all fields required

It seems that food-borne illnesses make the headlines every couple of months. From listeria outbreaks in lettuce to E. coli in burritos, contaminated food sickens Americans and leads to life-threatening complications every year.

If you recently suffered an illness from food poisoning, you may be wondering if you can sue the restaurant that made you sick. The answer will depend on the circumstances surrounding your illness. For example, it may be difficult to prove what made you sick if there was a time lapse between consuming the food and your illness. On the other hand, a government-issued recall might make collecting compensation easier.

Several legal theories and conditions inform food poisoning cases:

Product Liability

Food poisoning cases generally fall under the category of defective product law. The theory is that you ate a “defective product” (food) that led to your injuries (illness and any accompanying complications). Product liability claims in Florida involve the idea of “strict liability.” Under strict liability law, you do not have to show that the manufacturer’s negligence led to your injuries or illness. Rather, you only have to show that a restaurant’s defective product made you sick. In other words, you don’t have to show that a restaurant violated local health codes, you simply need to show that they served you contaminated food.

Food poisoning claims also involve “breach of warranties.” Many states, including Florida, have certain minimum standards that apply to food products. Contamination of a food product may constitute a breach of an implied warranty under Florida law, making the restaurant liable for any damages.

Elements in a Food Poisoning Claim

Providing proof of all elements of a food poisoning claim is often the most difficult part of gaining compensation for your illness. Generally, you must provide sufficient evidence that the food a restaurant served you was contaminated, and the contaminated food made you sick.

Did You Eat Contaminated Food?

Gaining compensation for food poisoning requires that you identify the particular food that made you sick. There is often a time delay between eating the food and developing the first symptoms of food poisoning. It can be difficult to determine what made you sick unless others also fell ill after eating the same thing.

Establishing a link between food and contamination is easiest when the government (or a manufacturer) steps in and issues a warning or recall. Recent examples include the contamination of romaine lettuce with listeria and Chipotle closing stores in 43 states due to nor ovirus and E. coli outbreaks.

Scientific testing for disease-causing microbes is an essential part of the claims process. You may have to test a stool or vomit sample to test for food-borne illnesses.

Did the Contamination Lead to Your Illness?

The easiest way to prove that contaminated food led to your illness is to test the food you suspect made you sick and compare it to the sample you provided. If they both contain microbes linked to food-borne illnesses, this will likely be enough to show that a restaurant caused your illness. If this is the case, they may be civilly liable for any damages that result.

Even after you show that a food-borne illness made you sick, anyone involved in the manufacturing or distribution chain may be responsible for your illness. For example, a romaine lettuce bacterial outbreak may not be the fault of the restaurant, but the company that grew the lettuce.

Food poisoning cases are unique and require the guidance of an experienced an attorney. A lawyer can help you determine who is responsible and hold them accountable. We recommend consulting an accident attorney in Fort Lauderdale if you want to pursue damages for a food-borne illness.