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What should I know about restaurant food poisoning?

Personal Injury Attorney

If you were diagnosed with food poisoning after eating at a restaurant, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against the restaurant, food delivery company, distributor, food manufacturer, grower or other parties. However, these types of cases tend to be rife with challenges which is why it is important to retain a food poisoning lawyer Wheaton, MD trusts as soon as possible.

In order to sue a restaurant for food poisoning, the law and any available evidence must be able to support your claim. The following is general information to help you understand how you may recover compensation for food poisoning.

Consulting a Medical Doctor – It is prudent that you get medical attention for food poisoning as soon as possible. A medical doctor will need to determine the actual pathogen which has caused the food poisoning. Examples of common foodborne pathogens include: E.coli, Salmonella, Vibrio, hepatitis A, Campylobacter, and others. All but hepatitis A are a bacteria.  

Have Tests Conducted – Special WGS or PFGE tests can be done on bacterial pathogens. If it is found that the food poisoning is from a bacteria, further tests can be done to determine what’s known as the “DNA fingerprint”. In general, when people get food poisoning from the same restaurant, it is found that they were sickened by the same source; which is the DNA fingerprint. Usually, in mass outbreaks of food poisoning, the State Health Department or Center for Disease Control will conduct a PFGE test and whole genome sequence to find this fingerprint. Genetic markers which can show the geographic location of the source of the bacteria may also be looked for.

When You Don’t Know What Caused the Food Poisoning – If you are not sure what actual food item caused you to have food poisoning, you might still be able to file a lawsuit. This will largely depend on the results of genetic testing and the epidemiology results. For instance, if there are 14 people who become ill with E.coli, they have matching DNA fingerprints, and ate at the same restaurant within a certain period of time, these cases will likely be connected.

When Food Does Not Cause the Illness – Sometime food poisoning can be caused by an employee of the restaurant who is unwell. If an employee of the restaurant is ill and handles any food, or works around a surface where food is prepared, menu items could become contaminated with pathogens. In general, the way these pathogens are transmitted is when the employee had a bowel movement and failed to adequately wash his or her hands after the fact. The employee then handled food or touched a surface where food was being prepared, people at that food, and became ill.

Saving Your Leftover Food Items – If you do fall ill, and you happen to have any leftovers from the restaurant, do not throw them away. Keep them in a fridge and contact a food poisoning lawyer as soon as possible.

When Gross Negligence is a Factor – In some cases a court will find that the restaurant was grossly negligent. If this is true for your own case, a lawyer might seek punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages.

Restaurants in the United States must follow strict regulations. If an investigation discovers that there was a pattern of violations, it may be gross negligence. Punitive damages, when applicable, are amounts of money awarded to the plaintiff that are meant to punish the defendant. These damages are often much more than the standard compensatory damages and in addition to medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and more.



Thank you to our friends and contributors at Cohen & Cohen, PC for their insight into personal injury claims and food poisoning.