Can Restaurants Be Held Liable for Food Poisoning?

While it’s rare, there are occasions in which you can be subjected to food poisoning from meals you eat in a restaurant. It’s not uncommon to wonder if the restaurant can be held liable in those circumstances, and, while they do owe a duty of care to their patrons, it may not be worthwhile to try to claim damages. This overview explains more about the legalities of this type of situation.

Was the Duty of Care Really Breached?

The first concern in pursuing a personal injury claim against a restaurant for food poisoning is proving the restaurant breached their duty of care. This, in itself, is a complicated manner because you will have to be able to prove that it was the food you were served in the restaurant that caused the food poisoning. 

If you ate a meal or snacks prior to going to the restaurant, it becomes increasingly more difficult to show that the restaurant’s food was what caused the poisoning. While consulting a doctor immediately after leaving the restaurant can help you establish the restaurant’s negligence, even a doctor may have difficulty in isolating the exact cause of your condition.

Was the Restaurant Liable?

In some cases, it may not be the restaurant’s fault that the food was of a substandard level of quality. Although manufacturers have the legal obligation to ensure the safety of their products, there are rare instances in which poor quality food products are packaged and delivered to distributors and restaurants. In that situation, the restaurant may use food in creating a meal, believing in good faith that all of the ingredients meet their state’s health and safety codes. 

If food of poor quality is later served to you, it may be necessary to show that the food manufacturer was at fault rather than the restaurant itself. This makes it more challenging to establish that the food poisoning occurred as the result of the restaurant’s negligence.

Is Your Claim Worth It?

In any personal injury claim, you’ll also have to show that breaching the duty of care caused you to suffer damages and that those damages can be measured in financial terms. This is an especially important issue to address in a case of food poisoning because the harm you suffer may not meet this criteria. 

Except in very extreme cases, food poisoning is temporary and doesn’t require medical attention. You will typically feel nausea or indigestion for a brief period as the contaminated food is passed through your gastrointestinal system. Once it’s eliminated as waste, the discomfort or pain will usually pass.

By the time you file a claim for damages, your symptoms may have completely disappeared. Unless those symptoms were severe enough to cause you to seek medical treatment, you may not be able to show that you suffered any damages at all. 

While the restaurant is liable for the food poisoning, it’s unlikely you would be able to meet the factors that are necessary in proving negligence. This is why very few people file personal injury claims over instances of food poisoning. You may obtain a better resolution by notifying the restaurant of the experience and asking for a refund on your meal.

In most cases, the damages aren’t significant enough to seek compensation from a restaurant, but your case may be different. If you have suffered financial damages as the result of food poisoning, you should consult a personal injury attorney. An initial consultation will give the lawyer an opportunity to evaluate the strength and value of your case. This can help you determine if it really is worthwhile to pursue a claim.


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