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Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

Restaurants have a duty to act with reasonable care to prevent injury to their patrons. This duty includes taking responsible steps to ensure their food is safe to consume. If a patron suffers food poisoning at a restaurant, he may have grounds for a lawsuit against the establishment itself and other actors in the restaurant’s supply chain. However, the key to winning a case for food poisoning is establishing causation. It is not enough to show you got sick after eating at a restaurant; you must prove the food at the restaurant made you sick.

In the past, authorities relied on circumstantial evidence of numerous people all getting sick around the same time after dining at the same restaurant. However, in many cases, patrons who became sick would not report their illness or would attribute the illness to another source. Only when victims had knowledge of each other would the suspicion of food poisoning be confirmed. By that time, any evidence of tainted food could have disappeared.

Fortunately, it has never been easier than it is today to trace an infection to its source. Common foodborne pathogens are bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, and viruses, such as Hepatitis A. In some cases, a sick employee could have tainted the food. This type of contamination is common when an employee fails to wash after using the toilet. But whatever the source, bacteria leave a DNA “fingerprint.” Health officials can perform forensic tests to find that fingerprint and match it to a source.

Your doggy bag can be a valuable resource. If the food did sicken you, the same pathogen should be present on your leftovers.

Although many bouts of food poisoning are mild, causing only vomiting and diarrhea, severe cases can require hospitalization and can result in neurological symptoms, kidney or liver damage, and even death. If you suffer food poisoning, you are entitled to personal injury compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other foreseeable damages. If the restaurant has blatantly violated the health code, you could even collect punitive damages.

Successful prosecution of your food poisoning lawsuit requires immediate action. Call Crane Flores, LLP today at (805) 628-4967 or contact our offices online to schedule a free consultation.

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