The food service industry includes a wide variety of business models ranging from large franchise establishments to individually-owned coffee shops and everything in between. Businesses in the food service inductee may encounter a number of legal issues that involve conflicts with the following:
- Food and beverage suppliers;
- Franchisor parent companies;
- Building contractors;
- Employees, including:
- cooks or chefs;
- busboys; and
- State, county or municipal health inspectors; and
An issue that should be a great concern for all providers of food services is food safety. Food safety issues that may arise include:
- Customer allergic reactions;
- Food-borne illnesses, for example, salmonella;
- Food storage safety;
- Keeping food free of contaminants;
- Safe food handling routines; and
- Other issues.
Another major issue for modern food services providers is food aggregators. Customers are becoming used to ordering their food through websites or apps that deliver to their door.
Fast-food outlets and restaurants enter into contracts with platforms that they pay a fee or commission to for their sales and deliveries of their menu items. These food delivery platforms may approach a restaurant with a standard contract.
In these situations, the food service may want to consider stepping back and seeking the advice of a business contract lawyer to review their contract and ensure the service’s interests are adequately protected.
What Are Fast Food Lawsuits?
An individual may sue a fast food restaurant for many different reasons. A fast food restaurant is typically a franchised unit or is owned outright by a larger corporate chain that provides a financial base that the individual filing a fast food lawsuit may target to recover damages.
Many fast food restaurants have large customer bases and employ many individuals. This makes them vulnerable to a greater number of restaurant lawsuit cases than a smaller or independently owned restaurant.
What Are Common Fast Food Personal Injury Lawsuits?
There are some common issues and legal theories that are often the basis of fast food personal injury lawsuits, including slip and falls and negligence. Typically, fast food restaurants have tile floors that can withstand high customer traffic.
These floors must be frequently washed in order to meet safety, health, and cleanliness standards. This means that the floors often have to get wet during business hours.
This poses a risk to customers who may slip and fall if they encounter a wet, slick patch on the floor. Restaurants are required to put out wet floor signs to warn customers of the dangers of the wet floor.
If this is not done, the restaurant may be held liable in the event of a customer injury that occurred due to a fall. Employees are also required to warn each other regarding dangerous slick conditions in the work area.
A negligence claim is filed when a customer or an employee can prove that management or ownership did not take reasonable care to prevent injury. In order to prove negligence occurred, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant had a duty of care that was breached.
If an individual was injured while at a fast food restaurant, they should contact a fast food lawyer to determine if they can file a lawsuit.
What Are Common Fast Food Lawsuit Claims?
There are numerous different types of claims that fast food lawyers can assist with, including those mentioned above. Product liability claims are also common in fast food lawsuits.
Because fast food restaurants serve so many individuals and handle such a high volume of business every day, the risk of service food that has accidentally been contaminated is much higher than it is for a small, independently owned restaurant. In certain cases, food products have been found to contain:
- Foreign objects;
- Dangerous or hazardous materials, for example, glass; or
- Unsanitary items, such as band aids or hair.
Vegetarians have sued fast food restaurants because they discover that animal products were actually used in the cooking oil of the otherwise vegetarian food. A fast food restaurant may also face claims regarding food allergies.
The list of ingredients must be comprehensive to allow individuals who have allergies to avoid consuming foods that will make them sick.
I Found Something in My Food. What Should I Do?
The chances of succeeding in a lawsuit if something is found in an individual’s food may vary depending on what was found. For example, if a razor blade or something extremely dangerous was in the food, they may have a better chance at obtaining damages.
The chances of succeeding in a case that is based on finding insects in food is relatively low. Although it may not be palatable for most individuals, finding a bug in an individual’s food, in general, does not make them physically ill.
This is different than if an individual gets food poisoning or some type of food borne illness. Both of these have serious symptoms and may result in life-threatening harm.
Although it may upset an individual to find insects in their food, it is difficult to obtain compensation for emotional distress because emotional injuries are much harder to prove. Instead of filing a lawsuit, an individual may consider writing an insect in the food complaint letter directly to the restaurant or state health department.
This process is easier and may get faster results, such as having the restaurant shut down. Most businesses also have an email address that the individual can submit their letter to as well.
If an individual does file a fast food lawsuit, in order to avoid bad publicity, the restaurant may offer them a settlement. A fast food lawsuit settlement allows the individual to obtain compensation for their injuries without the cost of a trial.
What if I Actually Become Sick from a Bug in My Food?
An individual may be able to sue a fast food restaurant if they actually become ill from finding an insect in their food. Although physical symptoms may be much easier to prove than emotional ones, the individual will still be required to prove the following elements:
- That there was an insect in the food at the restaurant;
- They become ill after eating the food and the food was eaten before they discovered the insect; and
- That the insect was the only thing that caused them to be sick. In other words, being sick beforehand or eating bad food earlier in the day would not count.
The presence of physical symptoms, as noted above, are much easier to prove than emotional symptoms. However, it is common for an individual to get sick from an insect.
The insect would have to be a specific type of insect that is known to cause illness or poison individuals who ingest them or be a type of insect that is often associated with food, such as blister beetles found in salads.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have suffered an injury or illness or have fallen at a fast food restaurant, you should consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Lawyers that sue restaurants can give you advice regarding your legal options and help you to present the best possible case for compensation.
If you are offered a settlement, your lawyer can help ensure that it is a fair amount.