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Food Borne Illness Lawsuits

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What Is a Food Borne Illness?

The term “food borne illness” refers to a number of different illnesses caused by eating food that has become contaminated as a result of a foodborne pathogen. Also called foodborne illness, or “food poisoning”, symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Fever
  • Loss of weight
  • Infection

In order to help prevent widespread food borne illness, every state enforces various regulatory measures when it comes to the preparation, handling, shipping, and serving of food products. Food borne illness lawsuits are commonly filed as class action lawsuits if many different people are affected.

What Causes Food Borne Illness?

There are many different types of food poisoning and many different sources of food borne illnesses. Causes can be traced to:

  • Viruses and bacteria, such as E. Coli or Salmonella
  • Improper handling, storage, or preparation of food such as during homebrewing
  • Chemical toxins present in food, such as high levels of mercury
  • Natural toxins present in food, such as toxins from mold or poisonous mushrooms
  • A mixture of other causes

Sometimes symptoms can be attributed to the consumer’s own allergy to a common food. In such cases, it may become necessary to consult with a medical or legal professional to determine what actually caused the illness, and which parties can be held liable for injuries. 

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Food Borne Illness Lawsuit?

This is probably the most difficult part of any foodborne illness lawsuit.  Most of these types of claims are based on a negligence theory. Negligence requires a showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, and that their breach of this duty caused the injuries. 

This can be difficult to prove, because food products often change hands many times before they finally reach the consumer. Many different parties can actually be liable, including:

  • Restaurant employees and personnel (servers, waiters, cooks, and others)
  • Food distributors
  • Shippers of food products
  • Suppliers of ingredients for foods
  • Restaurant public health inspectors

In most cases, a person will be more likely to succeed on their claim if they can show that the party knew about the contamination (or should have known about it) and yet did nothing to protect the consumer. 

What are the Legal Remedies for Food Borne Illness Injuries?

In most cases, victims of food borne illnesses can obtain a damages award in court if they can prove liability. This will usually cover losses such as hospital expenses, lost wages, and court costs. In some instances, the litigation may take the form of a class action suit, in which case many different victims can be compensated for their losses. This can happen for instance if a food supplier distributes large batches of tainted food to the public.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Food Borne Illness Lawsuit?

Food borne illness laws are intended to protect the consumer from needless harm and injury. If you’ve been injured due to a food borne contaminant, you may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance. Your attorney can help you file a lawsuit in the appropriate venue, and can provide you with valuable guidance to help you obtain an appropriate legal remedy. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-25-2015 10:39 AM PST

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