Can You Sue A Restaurant For Giving You Food Poisoning?

Americans are consuming more meals outside the home than ever before, with many families now eating out an average of five times or more per week. These restaurant excursions can serve as a bonding family ritual, fun date activity, or a bit of convenience in a busy schedule. However, you may sometimes find yourself bringing more home from your meal than just a to-go container. You may be able to write off mild food poisoning as an unpleasant experience that will force you to be more cautious; however, if you incurred medical bills or lost wages as a result of your food-borne illness, you may want compensation. Read on to learn more about the legal options available to you after contracting food poisoning.

Can you sue a restaurant after suffering food poisoning?

Food poisoning is quite common -- in fact, many temporary digestive illnesses that are written off as a "24 hour bug" or "the stomach flu" stem from food-borne bacteria. This food poisoning is usually highly unpleasant, but fortunately temporary. After recovering, you'll often want to simply put the entire situation behind you and simply write off the offending restaurant as a bad idea during future excursions. However, if your food poisoning is severe, or if you can clearly trace it to a specific cause and are worried that others may be made ill by this restaurant's substandard practices, you may want to consider a lawsuit.

What will you need to prove in order for your claim to be successful?

If the only consequence of your food poisoning was temporary discomfort (even including vomiting, diarrhea, or dehydration), it's unlikely that your legal claim will pass muster. Even if you are able to demonstrate you suffered harm directly caused by the restaurant or food manufacturer's negligence, if you didn't incur any medical expenses, permanent physical harm, or lost wages as a result of the food poisoning, the court will have little with which to calculate damages.

However, if you can establish that the restaurant breached its duty of care to you -- for example, by showing that employees did not observe required sanitation or food preparation methods -- and can also provide hospital bills or other documentation indicating your costs, it's likely that you'll be able to receive a settlement or court judgment to compensate you for the harm suffered. Because children are often hit hardest by food poisoning, suing on behalf of both you and an ill child may bolster your claim. In particularly egregious cases, the court may also be able to assess punitive damages against the restaurant to help deter future safety breaches.

Will you need to pay taxes on any judgment funds received?

Any settlement or judgment you receive will generally come to you absent only your attorney's fees and costs -- no taxes will be withheld. And if these funds include only compensatory damages (those meant to compensate you for actual medical expenses incurred), you shouldn't need to pay federal or state taxes on this money. If a certain portion of the funds received are designated to compensate you for your lost wages, you'll be responsible for paying ordinary income taxes on this (just as you would have if this money had come in paycheck form).

If the trial court assessed punitive damages against the defendant, you'll be responsible for paying taxes on the full amount of punitive damages at your highest marginal rate. If you've just received a settlement or judgment, it's often worthwhile to talk to a tax professional to determine the best way to legally protect the majority of these funds from the IRS. 

For more information, you may want to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer like Jon D. Caminez, PA