Are Restaurants Solely Responsible if I Get Food Poisoning?

August 4, 2017

Food poisoning is a tricky area of personal injury law. It can be difficult to know that food poisoning is the cause of your illness, as symptoms often resemble the flu and other common viruses. If you do know it’s food poisoning, it can be hard to prove which restaurant is responsible. Some illnesses may not show signs for days or weeks after consuming the tainted food.
If you can trace your poisoning back to a certain restaurant, the establishment may not be the only party liable for your damages. Here’s who may be responsible for your recent bout of food poisoning in California.

The Restaurant

The most obvious defendant in restaurant food poisoning case is the establishment itself. Food establishments owe diners high standards of care in terms of sanitation and food safety. There are hundreds of federal and state laws restaurants most obey to keep their food safe for human consumption. These include minimum standards for sanitation, food temperatures, cooking conditions, and food quality. Breaching any of these standards, resulting in patron food poisoning, is an act of negligence that may warrant a personal injury claim against the restaurant.
There are other situations in which the restaurant may be vicariously liable for the actions of others. The restaurant may be solely responsible for paying for your medical bills and other damages if one of its employees caused the problem. For example, if you contracted salmonella because a poorly trained chef served you raw chicken, the restaurant may be liable since the chef is an employee. The courts may hold a restaurant liable for poor hiring and training practices, unsafe premises, lack of sanitation, broken Food and Drug Administration laws, and for negligence in serving food that is safe to consume.

The Product Manufacturer

In some cases, food poisoning is the fault of the manufacturer of the item. A restaurant would not be to blame if a distributor supplied food tainted with bacteria, a virus, or harmful chemicals. Instead, the manufacturer or distributor would most likely be liable for damages. Manufacturers must ensure that food products are free from errors that could make them unsafe for consumption, such as issues on the assembly line or lack of warning labels.
An example of a product liability claim against the manufacturer for food poisoning is if the company failed to print expiration dates on a food item. The restaurant that received the items therefore did not know that the food went bad and continued to serve it to patrons. If patrons then came down with food poisoning, they could potentially sue the product manufacturer for failing to supply adequate warning labels.
In a product liability suit, plaintiffs do not have to prove the manufacturer or distributor’s negligence to successfully bring a claim. They must only show that the food item was defective and that this defect caused the illness or injury. It is possible to sue the manufacturer and the restaurant if the case warrants this action (for example, if the manufacturer failed to print the expiration date but the chef reasonably should have known that the food item rotted before he or she served it to patrons).

Are Restaurants Solely Responsible if I Get Food Poisoning?

Issues with food safety can occur in many places on the chain of command, from food suppliers to the waiter serving the dish. Determining who may be liable for your recent illness from food poisoning can be a difficult endeavor and may require help from experienced California attorneys.