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Many of us enjoy eating out at our favorite restaurants and trying out new dishes and cuisines. However, an enjoyable activity such as eating out can be spoiled by falling victim to food poisoning, which is accidentally eating food containing bacteria or viruses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 people get hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food-borne diseases in the United States each year.

Bacteria and viruses in food are the main causes of food poisoning. E.coli, salmonella, and listeria are often associated with food poisoning cases. Food poisoning symptoms can begin two to six hours after ingestion; and these include nausea, headache, vomiting, fever, and weakness. Food contamination can happen in various ways. Some of them include:

  • If meat is undercooked
  • If fish, shellfish, or fruits are raw
  • If food is not stored in the right temperature
  • If food is handled by someone with unclean hands
  • If food is prepared with unsanitary utensils and in an unclean environment


The business establishment that sells the contaminated food may be held liable for failure to exercise reasonable care in preparing and storing food. It may also be found strictly liable for a defective food product or for breaching a warranty. If you find yourself in extensive medical bills due to a bout with food poisoning, pursuing legal action may be a possible option for you. Legally recoverable damages in a personal injury case may include lost income, medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Here are the possible causes for action for food poisoning:

Negligence. A business has a duty to do reasonable care under general negligence principles. A restaurant has a duty to make sure that food is stored and prepared in a safe environment and eliminate unreasonable hazards. A breach in this duty happens when a restaurant’s kitchen is found dirty and food is handled in unsanitary ways. To pursue a negligence case, one must prove that the illness is caused by the business’s unsafe food. This can be challenging to prove, as the source of the illness must be isolated and identified. One must also prove personal injury or harm. Becoming sick can satisfy this requirement, and consulting with a doctor immediately can help in determining the sickness and identify the contaminated food.

Product Liability. A plaintiff must show that the food served was defective and dangerous, and must also prove that the defective and dangerous food caused the illness. Showing lack of reasonable care is not required in this case. Moreover, it is not only the restaurant that can be sued under strict products liability for selling contaminated food; the food distributor, retailer, manufacturer, and wholesaler can be held liable, too.

Warranty Breach. Most states have implied warranties, that is, a product must conform to an ordinary buyer’s expectations and follow minimal quality standards. In case of purchasing contaminated food, the inured consumer can make a claim that the food did not conform to the minimum standard of safety and sanitation.

Have you suffered from food poisoning due to contaminated food at a restaurant? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

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