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Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?

ELI5: Negligence

If you’ve managed to reach adulthood, you’ve likely had an experience where, shortly after eating something, you’ve needed to run to the bathroom, leading you to wonder, can you sue for food poisoning? There’s no doubt about it: food poisoning is a miserable experience for anyone. While it may be emotionally distressing, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can be compensated for such distress. 

The Elements of Negligence 

In order to have a successful lawsuit, your personal injury claim needs to have all of the elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation. Duty refers to a legal obligation. So, Carol from church probably has a legal obligation to ensure that the casserole she’s making for the church potluck isn’t filled with expired ingredients that will make the congregation sick. If Carol uses ingredients that expired back in 2009, she’s probably breached her duty. If the mayonnaise from 2009 causes people in the congregation to need hospitalization (causation), then those who were sick because of her expired casserole may be able to file a claim to be compensated for the cost of the hospitalization (damages). So can you sue for food poisoning? Yes, but it’s usually a long shot. 

What Are the Damages? 

When a person is filing a lawsuit, they’re generally trying to get compensation to cover damages they’ve sustained. For the most part, damages refer to the injury-related expenses that have an objective monetary value. However, the injured party could get additional compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. So, in order to have a good case, you need to have economic damages. The problem with food poisoning is that most of the time, there aren’t any economic damages that are worth a lawsuit. Most food poisoning lasts for only a couple of days, and even then hospitalization isn’t generally required. This means that, for most food poisoning cases, there aren’t any damages to sue over. 

Who’s at Fault? 

In order to get compensation in the first place there needs to be a source of recovery. When it comes to food poisoning, there can be two main issues: proving who’s at fault, and actually getting compensation. Even if you do get food poisoning from a church potluck, you’d have to prove that you got the food poisoning from a specific dish, which could be pretty difficult. But let’s say you somehow have definitive proof that Carol’s casserole made you so sick that you needed hospitalization. In this case, there’d need to be a source of recovery. If Carol doesn’t have the financial resources to pay for your injury-related expenses, there’d be no way to get compensation—unless her homeowner’s insurance stepped in, which it is unlikely to do in the case of food poisoning. 

What If They Did It on Purpose? 

If someone intentionally contaminated your food in order to cause you harm, you may have a claim. But, you’d still need to have damages and there’d need to be a source of recovery. You’d also have to prove that the person you’re accusing did give you food poisoning, and that it was intentional. As far as civil suits go, the aforementioned may be difficult. However, even if you’re not able to get financial compensation, you may be able to file a police report. Depending on the circumstances, a prosecutor may decide to press charges against the alleged perpetrator. 

When It’s Product Liability 

Like Carol, entities that manufacture and distribute food products generally have a legal obligation to ensure that the products they’re serving are able to be consumed. If a company sells contaminated products, they could be liable for any injuries that the product causes consumers to sustain. The liability that entities have to ensure their products do not harm consumers is referred to has product liability. If a defective, contaminated, or otherwise compromised food product causes you to sustain damages, you may have a claim, not just against the manufacturer, but anyone in the chain of commerce who was involved in bringing that product to the store shelves or your restaurant table. Remember the Statute of Limitations for bringing product liability claims may be different from the statute of limitations for general negligence claims, depending on the jurisdiction. 

Preventing Food Poisoning 

It’s important to take reasonable precautions in order to prevent food poisoning. Make sure to wash your hands before you begin cooking. Don’t use ingredients past their expiration date, or ingredients that even appear to have expired. While it’s unlikely that claims of food poisoning would be successful in court, Moxie Law Group has plenty of experience when it comes to getting compensation for those who have sustained injury in car crashes. If you need a car accident attorney who’s dedicated to fighting for your rights, Moxie Law Group is here for you. Contact Moxie Law Group today to get started on your free consultation. 

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