There are a couple essential questions everyone has to answer before suing a restaurant for food poisoning. For one, is it worth it? And two, can the victim prove their claim? Of course, every claim must be established to some extent, but when a contaminated meal is involved, the process offers some unique challenges. Greatest among them is time, because a victim will often recover before they even see a doctor, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes a contaminated meal harbors especially deadly pathogens, such as E. coli or salmonella. When such a deadly bacteria or virus is involved, the illness may mean more than a few trips to the bathroom.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN SUING A RESTAURANT FOR FOOD POISONING?
In Texas, the law places what is known as an implied warranty on products sold by a restaurant, grocery store, and anyone else involved in the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of food. An implied warranty means that just by selling the product, there is a reasonable assumption that it is fit for human consumption. Clearly, if a victim can prove that the product was harboring E. coli, salmonella, or another dangerous pathogen, then this is a breach of the implied warranty.
Establishing this proof, though, is typically the most complicated part of the process because a victim will have to act quickly. By the time most people think to go to the doctor or hospital, the illness has already become difficult to diagnose. There are fecal samples and pulsed field gel electrophoreses (PFGE) tests, but most people don’t bother with them. Even if a victim has leftovers from the meal stored in a refrigerator and is ready for testing, it may not be enough. A defendant will argue that the victim’s illness was caused by another meal, or by improper storage of the product.
What can make a case much stronger is if other people who consumed the product, such as other patrons, also fell ill. In fact, in most cases, suing a restaurant for food poisoning is done when there is a sudden outbreak of illness associated with a particular venue. When a business is negligent in product safety or handling, and many people are sickened because of it, the burden of proof is generally lower. Also, if the business has a history of health code violations or contaminated products, those facts can be used to strengthen a claim.
But is it worth filing a claim? If all a victim had to deal with is some discomfort for a few days, and some missed time from work, it may not be worth the hassle of filing a claim and pursuing it. If, however, the illness was bad enough to require hospitalization, then a victim should certainly consider seeking medical damages, as a successful claim may secure enough compensation for medical costs and pain and suffering. A personal injury attorney will be able to consult with a victim and help them determine whether or not they have a case, and can walk them through the process of generating evidence and proof of their case.