It’s a surprisingly common occurrence—you start to feel ill shortly after going out to dinner or eating food you bought from a grocery store. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million Americans suffer from food poisoning every year. Sometimes this can lead to medical bills, lost work or punitive damages. So who’s liable? In this blog, we detail what you need to know about food poisoning lawsuits.
Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?
The short answer to this question is yes, under certain conditions. Food poisoning is caused by the ingestion of foods containing bacteria or viruses and can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, cramps, fever and more. In many cases, you are legally entitled to file a personal injury claim after suffering from a variety of conditions or infections including E. coli, salmonella, norovirus, listeria and many others.
The Burden of Proof
While you are entitled to file a lawsuit, you should ensure it’s worth pursuing. That means you experienced real damages and are able to prove why. Food poisoning can take a few days to develop, which can make it hard to determine what food was the cause. We can help advise you on gathering evidence like holding onto leftovers, receipts or creating a list of other people who ate with you.
A restaurant has a duty to not serve contaminated food, which means it may be liable if:
- The food is proven to be defective; whether it was contaminated prior to its arrival at the restaurant, spoiled due to improper storage or prepared improperly allowing the presence of bacteria.
- You suffered substantial harm and the defective food was a factor in causing you harm.
With grocery stores, it’s a little more complicated. Selling expired food usually isn’t enough for a lawsuit. You must prove that the grocery store negligently sold you defective food that resulted in harm. The manufacturer may share some of the blame, such as in the massive E. coli outbreak from romaine lettuce in 2019.
In food poisoning cases, you may be able to recover compensatory damages for things including medical bills, lost wages or pain and suffering. In some cases, you may even be awarded punitive damages. But remember, in Massachusetts, the Statute of Limitations for injury lawsuits is three years, meaning you must file your lawsuit within that timeframe. If you think you might have a case, reach out to us for our expert guidance.