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Can You Sue for Food Poisoning?


Food poisoning is extremely common. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[e]very year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.” While most cases of food poisoning are relatively minor, as these statistics show, eating dangerous foods can have life-threatening consequences in some circumstances.

Even when food poisoning isn’t life-threatening, it can have painful, costly and potentially long-term effects. As a result, many individuals who contract food poisoning will find themselves wondering if they can sue. While it is possible to sue for food poisoning in many cases, potential claimants must carefully assess the benefits of suing before deciding whether to pursue legal action.

Grounds To Sue for Food Poisoning

Individuals who contract food poisoning may be able to sue on various grounds. As a general rule, grocery stores, restaurants, cruise ships and other businesses have a legal duty to avoid selling or serving dangerous foods—and when they breach this duty they can be held accountable under Florida law.

Some examples of potential grounds to sue for food poisoning include:

1. Selling Expired, Moldy or Contaminated Foods

Grocery stores and other retailers must avoid selling foods that are unsafe for consumption. This includes foods that have expired; foods that are moldy; and foods that have been contaminated with harmful bacteria from workers, other foods, animals (including rats, mice and other pests), and other sources.

2. Serving Undercooked Meats or Vegetables

Restaurants, bars, cruise ships and other businesses must avoid serving undercooked meats or vegetables. Not only can many types of foods be dangerous on their own if undercooked (including red meat, chicken and turkey), but cooking can be necessary to prevent food poisoning caused by contamination as well.

3. Failing to Store Foods at the Correct Temperatures

Storing foods at the wrong temperatures can cause harmful bacteria to grow, and this can lead to food poisoning. Improper food storage most often involves failing to refrigerate or freeze foods that should not be left at room temperature.

4. Failing to Maintain Sanitary Processing Facilities, Storage Facilities or Kitchens

Contaminated processing facilities, storage facilities that are accessible by pests, and unclean kitchens all present elevated risks for food poisoning. While these facilities are subject to inspections, businesses will often trick inspectors to avoid being shut down, and these inspections typically are not frequent enough to ensure proper food safety on an ongoing basis.

5. Failing to Follow Proper Food Handling Practices

Along with unsafe facilities, improper food handling practices are a common cause of food poisoning as well. This is true at process facilities, grocery stores, restaurants and all other types of businesses. While all companies should adopt safe food handling policies and provide adequate training and supervision for their employees, many businesses fall far short of doing what is necessary to protect their customers and guests.

Health Risks Associated with Food Poisoning

The most common symptoms of food poisoning are an upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While unpleasant, these symptoms are generally classified as “mild,” and for most people they will last no longer than a few days.

But, for some people, food poisoning can have long-term health risks. This includes risks such as:

  • Complications from dehydration
  • Chronic arthritis
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Brain damage

As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) notes, “Certain groups of people are more susceptible to foodborne illness. This means that they are more likely to get sick from contaminated food and, if they do get sick, the effects are much more serious.” This includes young children, older adults, people with weakened immune systems and people who are pregnant.

Is It Worth It To Sue for Food Poisoning?

Even if a business is responsible for your food poisoning, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes sense to sue. Suing takes time and costs money (at Searcy Denney, we cover these costs while our clients’ claims are pending); and, as a result, suing typically isn’t worth it for minor cases of food poisoning.

But, in serious cases, suing for food poisoning can be well worth it. Serious food poisoning can be incredibly expensive, not only in terms of the direct financial costs, but in terms of the negative impacts on your day-to-day life as well. With this in mind, to determine whether it makes sense to sue, you will need to answer questions such as:

  • How much are your medical bills? If you have a pile of medical bills that you cannot afford to pay, then it may make sense to speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. The costs of health care are continuing to rise; and, for many people, these costs can quickly become unmanageable.
  • Will you need medical care in the future? If you will need ongoing care for chronic arthritis, kidney failure or any other long-term effects of your food poisoning, this is a situation in which you will want to talk with a lawyer about filing a claim against the business that is responsible.
  • Have you missed work (and will you miss work)? When you sue for food poisoning, you can seek compensation for your lost income as well. If you have missed work (or will miss work in the future), this is yet another reason to seek legal representation.
  • Will you experience long-term effects? Along with ongoing medical expenses and lost earnings, if you will experience any other long-term effects or complications (including pain and suffering), this is a sign that you should consult with a lawyer as well.
  • How significantly has food poisoning impacted your life? In general, the more significant the impacts of your food poisoning, the more important it is that you consult with a lawyer about filing a lawsuit in court.

Talk to a Lawyer about Filing a Lawsuit for Food Poisoning in Florida

Do you have questions about filing a lawsuit for food poisoning in Florida? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To request a free consultation at Searcy Denney, give us a call at 800-780-8607 or tell us how we can help online today.

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