A couple of years ago, a well-known nationwide breakfast chain opened a new location in our neighborhood. Breakfast food is my favorite, especially when I’m not the pancake flipper or egg cracker.
We took the kids after church one Sunday. The kids got pancakes with a side of fruit. I got an omelet with a side of food poisoning.
The worse case of food poisoning I have ever had. On a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being a tummy ache and 10 being worse than unmedicated childbirth (I’ve been through that twice), it was easily a 15.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but I was sick for several days and required IV fluids. It’s taken me almost two years to be able to cook eggs, let alone eat them.
In addition to being deeply unpleasant, my bout of food poisoning had some not insignificant economic costs. I wasn’t able to work for a few days, I needed extra childcare, and had medical bills.
While I am a lawyer and the wife of a lawyer (and related to three other lawyers), I don’t go around suing people (or threatening to sue people or even fantasizing about suing people). I made one call to the manager of the restaurant and let the matter drop.
Could I have sued for food poisoning?
The answer is yes, but it would have been a difficult case to prove.
You can sue the restaurant, and if a specific food item made you sick, the grower, food processor, and distributor.
You need to be able to prove two things, something contaminated the food you ate and you became ill because of the contamination.
Unless there has been a government-issued food recall due to an outbreak of food poisoning involving the food you ate, this can be a difficult thing to prove. This can be further exasperated if there is a time delay between food consumption and the onset of illness.
So how would you prove your case? It’s CSI and Law and Order time. You need scientific testing of the food you ate and of an ahem “sample” from you. This will determine the specific pathogen that caused the illness (e.g., listeria, salmonella) and its “DNA fingerprint” to match it to the source and other people who were sickened with the same pathogen.
Pretty cool (and gross) stuff.
Keep in mind that it’s not just the food that can make you sick. Have you ever noticed in every restaurant bathroom there is a sign reminding employees to wash their hands? Guess what, not everyone washes their hands after using the facilities.
So what’s the bottom line? If you strongly suspect you have food poisoning (and not just a virus), seek medical attention immediately and document everything. If you have significant costs (time off of work, medical bills), consult with a personal injury attorney to see what your options are.
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