According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) about 48 million people each year become sick as a result of food poisoning. That’s one out of every six Americans! 

A total of 128,000 people are hospitalized due to their foodborne illness, and 3,000 people pass away after becoming sick. See article at

Food Poisoning: What is it?

Food poisoning refers to a foodborne illness that you develop after consuming contaminated food. 

Some common examples of food poisoning include:

  • Campylobacter
  • Botulism
  • E. coli
  • Hepatitis A
  • Listeria
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella

Food poisoning can cause various symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, infection, fever, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. 

Although uncommon, in severe cases, food poisoning can be deadly.

How Does Food Poisoning Occur?

Food poisoning or foodborne illness occurs when food is contaminated by bacteria that contaminates your food and make you sick when you consume it.

There are many potential causes of this contamination that can result in food poisoning including:

  • Cross contamination, which means organisms are transferred from one surface to another. If a restaurant sets lettuce for salad on a spot where raw meat was placed moments ago without properly cleaning the area, cross contamination can occur.
  • Failure to cook food to a sufficiently high temperature to kill bacteria and other infectious organisms
  • Failure of employees to wash hands before preparing food (very common)
  • Storing food improperly

Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?

The answer is: Yes. You may pursue a claim against an entity responsible for serving or selling you contaminated food. Much like any other lawsuit you need to make sure you have evidence to prove your case. 

You have the option to settle your food poisoning claim out of court as an alternative to suing. This could be the best choice if you are offered a fair amount of compensation for the damages you endured. If you settle, you avoid the time and uncertainty involved in a trial.

Proving Your Case in a Food Poisoning Claim

You must prove the following in order to ensure success in your food poisoning lawsuit:

  • The restaurant or facility had a duty to you
  • They failed to fulfill that duty
  • You suffered harm as a direct result of that failure
  • You should be compensated for that harm

Proving Negligence in Food Poisoning Claims

A restaurant that prepares sells or serves food can be held liable for its own failures or for the negligent failures of employees on-the-job.

That’s because restaurants and other companies are responsible for the on-duty actions of employees–even if the facility is not negligent itself. A legal doctrine called vicarious liability says employees act on behalf of their employers while performing job duties, so employers can be held accountable for their careless acts or omissions.

Some examples of situations where a restaurant could be found negligent include:

  • The restaurant or facility failed to establish policies for the safe handling of food
  • The restaurant or facility failed to maintain safe temperatures or conditions for the storage of perishable food
  • Restaurant or facility employees behaved more carelessly than a hypothetical reasonable person would in preparing, storing, handling or serving food. For example, a failure to wash hands after using the bathroom or not cooking food to a high enough temperature
  • A restaurant or its employees violated federal or state safety and health codes

An experienced food poisoning lawyer can provide you with assistance in gathering evidence and proving a claim arising out of food poisoning.

Other Legal Arguments in Food Poisoning Claims

You may also be able to make a food poisoning claim under products liability laws.

  • If you make a product liability claim, strict liability rules may apply. This means you do not have to show negligence to win your case. You win a food poisoning lawsuit if you demonstrate the restaurant or facility sold food that was contaminated or defective in some way that caused harm when the food was used as intended.

Compensation for Food Poisoning

You are entitled to compensation for all losses endured as a result of developing food poisoning. This includes:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

If a food poisoning incident is fatal, the estate of the deceased or surviving family members can make a claim for wrongful death damages. An experienced food injury lawyer like those at O’Malley & Perry Law can help you to prove your case and maximize the compensation you deserve.



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