Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?

Can You Sue for Food Poisoning

What Is Food Poisoning?

Have you fallen ill after eating packaged food? Did you get sick after having a meal at a restaurant? Have you suffered complications from food poisoning? Talk to an experienced local attorney who can help you understand if you can sue for your food poisoning experience. Call today or fill out the online contact form below.

Occasionally, an outbreak of foodborne illness makes local, state or even national headlines. While news of food poisoning may dissuade you from visiting a restaurant, it may make you wonder, can you sue for food poisoning?

If something you ate made you sick, you may be able to seek compensation from the manufacturer or preparer of the food item. Before you do, though, you must understand your state’s laws. After all, food poisoning cases usually fall within the purview of local law, which may vary considerably from state to state.

Food Poisoning Happens in a Few Different Ways

Food poisoning happens when a person swallows food or liquid that contains bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins. While the staphylococcus and E. coli bacteria are common sources of foodborne illness, many different germs may make you sick.

Often, food poisoning occurs because of contamination. Germs may end up in the food you eat in any of the following ways:

  • Meat, poultry or fish accumulate germs during processing
  • Vegetables, fruit or dry goods encounter germs through cross-contamination during meal preparation
  • A food preparer transmits germs from his or her hands onto food
  • A food preparer fails to properly heat or otherwise prepare meals

While it is certainly possible to develop a foodborne illness after eating self-prepared meals, food poisoning is more common at picnics, restaurants and cafeterias. In these places, the large volumes of food make following food safety protocols more difficult.

Legal Theories for Food Poisoning Matters

If you develop food poisoning after eating a meal someone else prepared, you may be able to sue to pursue compensation for your injuries and other damages. Usually, food poisoning matters proceed under one of the following legal theories:

  • Negligence
  • Product liability
  • Breach of warranty

Which legal theory applies to your food poisoning probably depends on the law of the state where you live. Nonetheless, if you want to seek compensation, you should understand the intricacies of each approach.


With a negligence theory, you must show that someone’s carelessness caused your injuries. To proceed with a negligence claim, someone must have breached a duty of care he or she owed to you. If that breach caused you to sustain an injury, the person responsible might have to pay for your damages.

For example, all food workers have a duty to act reasonably and follow certain protocols when preparing or handling food. If a chef does not wash his hands, he or she may breach that duty. If the breach causes you to develop a serious foodborne illness, you may be able to hold the chef or his or her employer legally responsible.

Product Liability

When considering if you want to sue for foodborne illness, many states have strict product liability for food poisoning matters. If you live in a state that follows this approach, you do not have to show that someone breached a duty of care. Instead, you must demonstrate that food was unsafe or contaminated. If you ate that food and became ill, the person who prepared it may have to pay for your damages.

For example, assume you ate tacos at your favorite roadside diner. If the tacos you consumed were contaminated by bacteria, the diner’s owner might have to pay you for your damages. This is true even if the owner and his or her employees followed applicable safety standards when handling your meal.

Breach of Warranty

In many places, products come with certain implied warranties. When it comes to food, there is usually an implied warranty that it is fit and safe to consume. After all, food is meant to be eaten. If you eat contaminated food that makes you sick, you may be able to sue the manufacturer or preparer for breach of warranty.

For example, a grocer may sell you onions, knowing full well you are likely to cook with or eat the onions raw. Unless the grocer tells you the onions are not fit for human consumption, you may have a valid legal claim after falling ill.

The Claims Process

If you have developed a foodborne illness, you may need to file a legal claim as part of your recovery process. The claims process is likely to vary based on which legal theory you are pursuing.

For a negligence claim, you must prove each of the following elements: duty, breach, causation and harm. On the other hand, if you plan to file a suit for breach of warranty, you must demonstrate an implied warranty existed. You also must show that someone breached that warranty.

You likely, though, live in a jurisdiction that has strict product liability for food poisoning matters. To sue for food poisoning under this theory, you only must prove two elements:

  • You ate contaminated food
  • The contamination made you ill

Unfortunately, proving a link between food, contamination and your illness can be challenging, especially if a significant amount of time has passed. Filing a report with your local health department may help to connect the dots.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

If contaminated food has made you sick, your overall health is likely your top priority. Still, you should not have to pay the cost of someone else’s negligence, warranty breach or defective product. You also should not stand idly by while others fall ill.

While you can sue for food poisoning, proving your case may be tough. That is, regardless of theory, the law can be incredibly complex. An experienced local lawyer can evaluate your matter and advise on whether you have a case. He or she can also help you gather relevant documentation, seek a settlement or present your case at trial.

Even if you understand the legal theories behind seeking compensation for foodborne illnesses, having an experienced advocate on your side may make a considerable difference. Rather than trying to go it alone, submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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