Is Food Poisoning Grounds for a Personal Injury Claim?

Categories: Injury Blog

A man in pain due to food poisoning.

Foodborne illnesses don’t always qualify as an injury claim. But in unique instances, you may be eligible for compensation.

You went to your favorite restaurant and ordered the dish you always do.

Everything tasted the same, but once you got home, you realize something isn’t right.

Your stomach is upset, and over the course of the next few days you become violently ill. You miss work; you might even be hospitalized.

Was it the food?

If so, can you hold the restaurant responsible for your illness?

Clients often wonder if food poisoning is grounds for a personal injury claim. While an illness, it was caused by someone. The answer to whether or not you can file an injury claim depends on the circumstances. Also, the time between when you ate the food and the illness’ onset plays a heavy role.

It is best that you consult with an attorney if you want to file a suit over food poisoning. An attorney can evaluate your case and better decide if you have a claim or not.

Common Causes of Philadelphia Food Poisonings

Food poisoning comes from contamination. While restaurants and supermarkets are required to keep their premises clean and the food they prepare safe for consumption, there are numerous bacteria that can lead to severe illness out there.


Salmonella is a common cause of foodborne illness, and it is found in raw meats, milk, and eggs. When food is not stored properly or not cooked thoroughly, it spreads quickly. Salmonella symptoms and the illness itself does not last long – usually 24 to 48 hours. In rare cases, it can lead to permanent injuries. Also, for small children, the elderly, or those with a compromised immune system, salmonella can be life-threatening.


Shigella occurs when employees do not wash their hands after using the restroom. Symptoms of this illness are usually gastrointestinal, and the illness lasts anywhere from five days to a week. Treatment requires antibiotics, but rarely will you have complications as long as you remain hydrated and receive medical treatment.


Clostridium botulinum (botulism) comes from soil and fertilizer used to grow food. Also, if canned foods are not sealed properly, the bacteria spreads and becomes toxic.

Botulism is a serious illness that can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include nausea, lethargy, double vision, difficulty speaking, impaired breathing, and droopy eyelids. If untreated, a person could die in three to 10 days after exposure.

Anyone showing symptoms of this infection must seek medical treatment right away. Often it requires hospitalization and continuous monitoring.


For most people, listeria causes an upset stomach. For pregnant women, children, and the elderly, listeria is potentially fatal.

E. Coli (Escherichia)

E. coli causes serious, permanent damage to the intestinal tract and can spread to other organs. It usually occurs in undercooked contaminated meat. Symptoms last anywhere from one week to 10 days; in some cases, kidney failure might occur. Treatment for E. coli requires a course of antibiotics to remove the bacteria.

The Theories of Liability and How They Apply to a Food Poisoning Case

To determine if you have a case, one of more of the following theories of liability must apply.

Strict Liability

Most states use strict liability, which means you do not have to show that the company, supplier, or manufacturer contaminated the food. Instead, you must show the food made you sick; how it was infected is not a factor. Any time a food supplier, restaurant, wholesaler, or manufacturer is negligent in how they distribute a product it could fall under strict liability.

While the burden of proof is easier, you still must prove (using a preponderance of the evidence) that the food itself was the reason you were sick – and not something else.


If strict liability does not apply, you may argue that the workers or owners of the restaurant acted negligently, and it resulted in your injuries. For example, the manufacturing or way the food was supplied caused contamination, or management forced sick workers to work near food – leading to contamination.

Breach of Warranty

Another theory is the breach of warranty. Products have minimum standards imposed by the state, which means that there is an implied warranty. When foods are contaminated, it may constitute a violation of that implied warranty.

Is It Worth Filing a Lawsuit?

No one likes getting sick – especially from the food they ate. If you are confident that you can prove your case and show the restaurant or eatery caused your illness, you might have a case.

However, deciding if it is worth it comes down to damages. If you missed one or two days from work and suffered a bout of stomach upset, it might not be worth the effort.

On the other hand, if you were hospitalized, missed several weeks of work, or suffered from severe organ damage, filing a lawsuit is an option.

Consult with an Attorney First

To determine if your food poisoning case constitutes negligence or qualifies for compensation through an injury lawsuit, you should consult an injury attorney first.

If a food product injured you or a loved one or you suffered permanent injuries from a foodborne illness, speak with an attorney. To get started, schedule a free case evaluation by contacting Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. You can call the office at 800-465-8795, cellphone at 215-771-0430, or fill out my online contact form with your questions.