Filing A Restaurant Food Poisoning Lawsuit: Frequently Asked Questions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 48 million Americans are sickened by food poisoning each year. Food borne illnesses spread in several different ways, including through infected foods and if the person preparing the meal is sick. If you've recently become ill after eating at a restaurant, you might be considering filing a lawsuit. Here are a few questions you might have about your food poisoning lawsuit:

What Are the Common Symptoms Associated with Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a very common conditions and chances are you have been sickened before. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms associated with food poisoning typically occur within a few hours after you consumed the meal. However, in some cases, it might be several days or even weeks before you get sick.

Some of the common symptoms associated with food poisoning include:

  • Fever
  • Severe, loose stools and diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe stomach cramps

Depending on the type of bacteria or virus that made you sick, the symptoms associated with food poisoning can last for several hours or days. If you believe you were sickened by a food borne illness after eating at a restaurant, you should consult an attorney to determine if you have a case.

Do I Have a Case?

Your personal injury attorney can help determine if you have a case and which type of claim you should file. Typically, your attorney will file one of the following types of claims:

  • Breach of Warranty – Depending on where you live, your lawyer may file a breach of warranty claim against the restaurant or the food vendor. Basically, when you eat at a restaurant, you are provided with an implied warranty that states the food should meet a certain minimum standard. If it's contaminated, it simply doesn't meet that standard.
  • Negligence – To prove negligence, your lawyer must show that the food manufacturer, distributor or the restaurant did not exercise a reasonable amount of care when handling your food.
  • Product Liability – A product liability claim states that the manufacturer, distributor or the restaurant sold you a defective product and that defective product made you sick.

The type of case your lawyer will file is dependent on several factors. For instance, in some states, you will have a better chance if you file a product liability claim because that state's law are very strict.  

What Is Involved in Filing a Food Poisoning Case?

Once you've contacted an attorney, they will begin investigating your case. In order to prove you were sickened at the restaurant, your attorney will need to determine which type of bacteria or virus made you sick. Some of the most common food borne illnesses include Shigella, Vibrio and Norovirus. Typically, a doctor will test your stool to determine which virus or bacteria is present. If you have food leftovers, they might also be tested.

Your attorney will also have the equipment, food and employees tested through a process called PFGE, or pulsed-field gel electrophoresis. This test looks for the genetic makeup of different bacteria and viruses throughout the restaurant. If the test finds evidence of the same bacteria or virus that made you sick, it will strengthen your case.

Finally, it is important to let your attorney know if anyone else who ate with you at the restaurant also became ill. The more people who were sickened, the easier it will be to prove your case.

If you or a loved one recently fell ill after eating at a restaurant, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the restaurant, food manufacturer or food distributor. The first step you need to take is to hire a personal injury attorney to help you begin the process. Contact a firm like Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP to get started.