When Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on November 20, 2014 2:43 PM

Coming down with a case of food poisoning is certainly an unpleasant experience. But is an unpleasant experience enough for a lawsuit?

In some cases, food poisoning can not only lead to a lawsuit, but may lead to a significant recovery. For example, the family of an Australian girl who suffered food poisoning at a KFC restaurant was awarded $8.3 million in a lawsuit against the chain.

So when can you sue a restaurant for food poisoning? Here's what you need to know:

Liability for Food Poisoning

There are a variety of ways by which a victim of food poisoning may prove legal liability on the part of a restaurant. In a lawsuit for negligence, a consumer sickened after eating at a restaurant can argue that a restaurant owes a duty to customers to serve food that has been properly stored, is properly prepared, and is not contaminated with one of a variety of sources of food poisoning.

A lawsuit for negligence requires proof that the defendant both violated his duty of reasonable care and that this violation was the cause of the plaintiff's damages. In a negligence lawsuit for food poisoning, the plaintiff may need to prove that the restaurant failed to live up to the safety standards generally required in the restaurant injury, such as by allowing kitchen staff to prepare food using unclean utensils or storing food at an unsafe temperature. In addition, the plaintiff may be required to prove that his illness was caused by the food served at the restaurant and not food from another source.

Hospitalization Not Required

Another consideration in any potential lawsuit will be the amount of damages suffered by the plaintiff. Discomfort or inconvenience may not be sufficient for an award of damages, but an extended hospital stay may not be required either.

If a plaintiff can show that he suffered some form of damage, such as lost wages from missed work, pain and suffering, or extreme mental anguish, he may be able to recover for those damages through a lawsuit.

To learn more about food poisoning and the legal issues involving food-borne illness, check out FindLaw's section on Dangerous Foods.

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