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Food Poisoning and the Law

Most people have had food poisoning at least once in their life. Although food poisoning can be a fairly common occurrence, it may be possible for you to have a proper legal claim if you’ve suffered from foodborne illness. Each case is different and depends on the details of your illness. Read on to learn more about food poisoning and the related legal claims that can arise.

What Is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning occurs when food that’s consumed contains bacteria or a virus. The bacteria can contaminate the food in a variety of different ways including:

  • If the food is prepared by someone with unclean hands
  • If the food is prepared with unclean cooking utensils
  • If meat is undercooked
  • If fish, oysters, or fruits are raw
  • If foods aren’t stored at a proper temperature

Symptoms of food poisoning can begin anywhere from two to six hours after eating the food and can last up to 48 hours. Symptoms usually include fever, headache, vomiting and nausea, and weakness. The best way to treat food poisoning is to refuel your body with fluids, as dehydration is likely.

Is It Hard to Prove You Have Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning may be difficult to prove because it may be hard to trace to exactly what it was that caused you to become ill. To bring a successful claim, you must show that the food you ate was contaminated, and that it was that same contaminated food that made you ill.

Much of the time it’s difficult to determine whether the food you ate was contaminated because it is hard to pinpoint what exactly made you sick. This is even more of a battle if there has been a time delay between eating the food and exhibiting symptoms. However, it’s easier to prove if many other people have come down with food poisoning by eating the same contaminated food.

Liability for Food Poisoning

Not all personal injury cases arising from food poisoning are the same, but most of these cases fall under a "product liability" legal theory, making food poisoning cases similar to cases involving injury from a defective product. In other words, the contaminated food is the defective product that was sold to you and injured you by causing food poisoning. This would be known as the strict liability theory.

Other legal theories of product liability include negligence and breach of warranty. For example, the restaurant could be liable for negligence if it didn’t provide a safe environment with safe food. In a breach of warranty case, there is usually the notion that a product will meet the expectation’s of an ordinary buyer. Clearly, an ordinary buyer would not expect his food to be contaminated and may then have a legal claim.

Get Legal Help

If you or someone you know has suffered from food poisoning and you think you may able to trace the cause of it, you should meet with an experienced product liability attorney to give you more information about your legal rights. If you have already set up an appointment to meet with an attorney, please refer to Findlaw’s following pages to obtain the proper forms prior to meeting with an attorney for the first time:

Next Steps
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure
your rights are protected.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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