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Posted by: OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers

Yes, you can sue a restaurant for food poisoning if negligent actions caused your illness or if you were served adulterated food. Every year, 48 million people get sick from foodborne diseases, according to the Food and Drug Administration. That’s nearly one in every six Americans who suffer because of irresponsible food handling.

If you or a loved one gets sick after eating at a restaurant, contact OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers. We will evaluate your case and help you determine what steps you should take next. Call us at 888-828-7087 or use our online contact form to reach out for a free consultation.

Suing a Restaurant for Food Poisoning

To successfully sue a restaurant for food poisoning, you must prove either that they served you adulterated food (strict liability) or that they had a duty, failed to meet that duty with negligent action or inaction (negligence) and that you were sickened as a result.

Arguments to Prove Negligence

In general, all restaurants must provide safe food to their customers. There are state and federal laws with regulations that restaurants must follow. If a restaurant serves you food that is contaminated with certain pathogens—such as E. coli or Salmonella—the restaurant is generally strictly liable for any injuries that result.

Restaurants may also be held liable if they were negligent in their food preparation or handling. In that case, you must have evidence that the restaurant, or one of its employees, did something that caused you to become ill. An example of negligence might be perishable food that was left out of the refrigerator and became tainted.

You can prove your injuries and financial damages with medical records and bills, lost wage forms, and similar documents.


You could recover compensation for any damages you incur, including those that are economic – directly linked to a monetary loss – and non-economic – subjective, non-monetary losses.

Medical expenses are typically one of the highest damages incurred in a food poisoning case. In fact, according to the FDA, annual medical costs for all food poisoning cases in the U.S. total between $10 and $83 billion. Although you may still be eligible for compensation even if you didn’t go to the hospital.

You can get compensation for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium – spousal relationship

Poor Food-Handling Practices

Foodborne illness occurs when a person consumes food or drinks contaminated by disease-causing microbes or pathogens. Many pathogens are spread through dirty water, contact with animals and food, and person-to-person spread. Poor food-handling practices are often to blame for many cases of food poisoning.

The most common food-handling practices include:

  • Failure to wash hands or properly use hand soap and sanitizer
  • Allowing bacteria to spread throughout the kitchen on cutting boards, utensils, and countertops
  • Failure to cook food to a high enough internal temperature to kill bacteria
  • Failure to refrigerate foods quickly enough to slow the growth of bacteria
  • Improper storing and preserving of foods

Risks Involved

Unfortunately, there is a lot of risk for the person who gets food poisoning from a restaurant. You may face financial risks as well as physical risks through the symptoms that you experience.

Financial Risks

Medical bills can pile up quickly when dealing with food poisoning. If you get a severe case and become dehydrated, you will probably need to go to the ER or urgent care. Emergency care can cost several hundred dollars alone. Then you will need to follow up with your doctor. Prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter meds, might be necessary.

You’ll probably miss work while you deal with the unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning. You’ll lose wages and other benefits, such as paid sick leave or personal days.

Physical Risks

The symptoms you experience will depend on the type of pathogen that is causing your food poisoning. However, common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and upset stomach.

Health Codes and Federal Laws

Suppose a restaurant fails to meet all health codes and follow federal laws. In that case, that failure alone may be seen as negligence, leaving them liable for your damages.

Federal Regulations

Food facilities must comply with the requirements for risk-based preventative controls mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). Those rules require food facilities to have a food safety plan in place that analyzes hazards and risk-based preventative controls to minimize and prevent dangers to consumers.

Health Codes

In addition to these federal regulations, every state has a restaurant health code. These codes have rules regarding safe refrigeration temperatures, hand washing, and more.

How a Food Safety Lawyer Can Help

Food poisoning cases against restaurants can be complex. The restaurant may deny your claim and try to avoid paying you what you deserve. Our food poisoning lawyers can help build a solid case to get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers at 888-828-7087 for a free consultation.

Notable Recoveries

$10 million

Seven infants were sickened after consuming a contaminated food product marketed to infants

$6.5 million

Verdict on behalf of a little boy who contracted a severe Salmonella infection from chicken

$7.55 million

Verdict on behalf of a little girl who contracted E. coli at a petting zoo

$2.25 million

E. coli infections contracted from a major fast food chain

$45 million

An over-the-counter medication caused severe kidney damage to multiple users

$3.4 million

A pregnant woman contracted a Listeria infection from contaminated fruit and passed the infection to her child

$3 million

Multistate Cyclospora outbreaks


A couple contracted Salmonella from a restaurant


A pedestrian was struck by a left-turning car, fracturing her tibia


A semi-truck rear-ended a motorcyclist causing a collapsed lung, rib fractures and road rash