There are few illnesses more physically disabling and unpleasant than food poisoning. If you have what you think is food poisoning, the symptoms usually subside in a few days. To avoid dehydration, your best course of action is to drink a tablespoon of water after your stomach has settled for a bit. If you keep that down, try larger amounts of liquid – either water or a drink with added electrolytes.

Lawsuits Involving Food Poisoning

Though difficult for anyone, food poisoning is particularly difficult for pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or people with a compromised immune system. There are situations where people can bring a lawsuit against those that caused their illness, especially if there were devastating consequences. Many restaurants, food distributors, and grocery stores have negligently spread food poisoning to masses of people. When this happens, those affected have the right to sue under the legal theory of negligence or strict products liability.


Under the principles of negligence, any business must exercise proper and reasonable care in its operations. Reasonable care for a restaurant means it must provide a safe environment with sanitarily prepared meals. If a restaurant fails to keep food properly refrigerated or doesn’t properly clean the kitchen, it has been negligent in its responsibility to the customer.

In a negligence case against a restaurant for food poisoning, the plaintiff – or person who is suing – must prove the restaurant’s negligence caused the food poisoning. This alone can be difficult, but proving that it was the restaurant’s food and not another food source can be an added challenge. A doctor’s analysis is the only foolproof evidence that can determine the identity of the poisonous food. Additionally, you must prove the restaurant’s negligence caused harm; illness usually fits the bill, though the extent of your illness will play a significant role in the lawsuit.

Strict Products Liability

For cases involving contaminated food, plaintiffs must prove the food was dangerous or somehow defective, and that it caused their illness. With a negligence claim, you must prove there was a lack of reasonable care (dirty kitchen, poor food storage), but with a products liability claim, you don’t need this requirement – this is the main difference between products liability and negligence.

A business may be held legally responsible for selling contaminated food under a strict products liability claim. In this situation, everyone involved in the food chain can be sued: retailer, food distributor, manufacturer, or wholesaler.

Legally Recoverable Damages from Food Poisoning

For those who have been stricken by illness as a result of a business’ negligence or sale of contaminated food, you can legally recover damage for:

  • Lost income due to missed time from work
  • Medical treatment and ongoing medical care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

In rare cases, food poisoning can lead to death. Dehydration and miscarriage due to dehydration are unusual but possible outcomes of severe food poisoning. In this case, the deceased’s loved one can file a wrongful death suit against the offending business.

When to Seek Legal Action

For many of us, determining food poisoning can be difficult. Food poisoning is surprisingly common, and generally, restaurants are to blame. If your food poisoning has gone beyond a couple of days, you may be looking at lost wages for missing work due to the illness. Medical bills as a result of ER visits for dehydration can be extremely costly, especially if more than one of your family members has fallen ill.

To discuss your options and whether you have a case against a restaurant or other business, contact the compassionate and skilled West Virginia personal injury lawyers at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC. We offer free consultations and will speak honestly about your chances for compensation.