You have just finished a delicious meal with your favorite foods: chicken or seafood, rice, eggs, leafy green vegetables. While healthy choices, these foods and others are common culprits in foodborne illnesses. And then it starts: you feel stomach pain and cramping. You may experience vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms are incredibly uncomfortable, and in some cases, they can lead to dehydration and even weakness and tingling.
Foodborne illnesses typically resolve themselves within hours or days, but some people do require medical attention. Should you take action when you experience restaurant food poisoning?
The Short Answer
Can you file a food poisoning lawsuit? Yes. You can. The bigger question is, should you?
As a major tourist destination, Florida has over 40,000 establishments at which you can enjoy food and drinks, and you can find the right fit for your cravings, whether it’s surf and turf or vegan cuisine. You expect delicious options and a good time; you do not expect to contract a foodborne illness.
The difficulty around filing a food poisoning lawsuit, though, is that you must prove that the restaurant caused the illness. Further, damages may not be substantial enough to make the process worth it in terms of your time.
First, let’s look at proving food poisoning. This can prove more challenging than many people believe.
Food Poisoning – or a Stomach Bug?
Imagine you had dinner at a restaurant and hours later, you are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning. It seems logical that the eatery caused the problem – but this is not always the case. Your symptoms may be the result of something else you’d eaten or it could be a stomach bug. To win a food poisoning lawsuit, you must prove that the restaurant was responsible.
This is difficult, even if you have “proof” in the form of leftovers. Say that you had them tested as part of your legal action, and they did contain harmful bacteria. The restaurant and its legal representatives will say that something must have happened to the food after it left their premises (e.g. that you left it out at room temperature).
Should You Pursue a Case?
Foodborne illnesses are uncomfortable and certainly a nuisance that can keep you out of work and impact other areas of your life. However, usually potential damages amount solely to lost wages. It may not be worth your time, energy, and resources to mount a case that will, if successful, lead to minimal damages.
Are there instances when restaurant food poisoning is impactful enough to justify filing a lawsuit? The short answer there, too, is yes. If your illness required you to be hospitalized or you were exposed to a particularly dangerous contaminant, such as salmonella, E. coli, or cyclospora, and your condition lasted for more than a few days, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney for guidance.
In the case of Stachulski v Apple New England, LLC, for example, a jury awarded the plaintiff $750,000 in damages as a result of his exposure to salmonella. This 29-year old man ate a hamburger at the defendant restaurant and fell ill. He was in intensive care for a full week, and for a year after, he suffered from uncontrollable bowel movements, kidney failure, liver failure, and septic infection.
Now, earlier we mentioned that the defendant restaurant will try to claim the plaintiff’s illness was caused by other factors. They did so here, arguing that his exposure to salmonella could have been through other foods or his pet lizard.
The jury sided with the plaintiff, who racked up $43,000 medical business and requires ongoing treatment. They also awarded pain and suffering damages.
This is an extreme case of food poisoning, and it was certainly the right call to proceed with legal action. If you are unsure what the best course of action is for you, consult the experienced lawyers at LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz.
Proving Restaurant Food Poisoning
As indicated, proving a particular restaurant was responsible for your food poisoning can be difficult. Steps you should take if you should decide to take legal action:
- Record how much time passed between your meal and the onset of your symptoms.
- See a medical professional if your symptoms worsen or do not resolve within a few days to a week. They can run tests to diagnose food poisoning and obtain samples (fluids, blood, stool, etc.) that can be utilized by your legal representatives.
- If you brought home a doggy bag, save your leftovers. These can be analyzed by independent laboratories. While not conclusive proof on their own, they can be a piece of the larger puzzle.
- Consult with an attorney. It places a significant burden on your shoulders when you try to coordinate medical and lab evidence. The attorneys at LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz can help you take the next steps, including determining whether other people who also ate at the restaurant and experienced food poisoning.
When you go out to enjoy a meal, you may expect to bring home some tasty leftovers for later. You don’t expect to bring home an illness. If your condition worsens, requires hospitalization or ongoing care, and/or multiple were sickened, please consult an experienced attorney at LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz to discuss your options. Filing a food poisoning lawsuit may be an option – and we will guide you through that decision and the next steps in the process.