Food poisoning strikes millions of people every year, many of whom never know how close they came to serious illness. However, food poisoning can become severe, requiring a hospital stay and possibly causing life-long complications or death. If you have been the victim of food poisoning contracted at a New York City restaurant, you may be able to sue the restaurant for negligence.
What Is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a general term for intestinal disorders associated with contaminated or spoiled food. It develops after you consume certain pathogens, such as E. coli or Salmonella. While multiple pathogens cause different types of food poisoning, symptoms are generally similar. They include abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, fever may develop as the body fights off foodborne infection.
Most individuals recover from food poisoning on their own within a few days; however, that is not always the case. Some people develop long-term health conditions after having food poisoning. Associated conditions can include:
- Nerve and brain damage
- Kidney failure
Because medical complications requiring hospitalization and long-term health effects are known risks associated with contaminated food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeking medical care for foodborne illness in the following situations:
- You are pregnant
- You have a compromised immune system
- Symptoms last more than three days
- You develop severe symptoms such as:
- A high fever (over 102 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Bloody diarrhea
How Does Food Poisoning Happen at Restaurants?
Food poisoning from eating at restaurants is commonplace. However, symptoms are generally so mild that cases go unreported. Still, thousands of cases are reported to New York City Health annually. This is because foods can be contaminated at the source or through contact with germs inside the restaurant.
New York City Health reports that the most common reason behind food poisoning in restaurants is consuming undercooked or raw meat, fish, eggs, and poultry. In addition, fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw pose a risk if they have been contaminated during growing, harvesting, or storage. Unpasteurized milk is also a concern.
New York requires a written consumer warning to contain all foods that may be eaten raw or undercooked, even if they are daily specials or cooked to order. Failure to include this warning violates health codes and is punishable by a fine and lowered health grade.
Poor Personal Hygiene of Employees
No one likes to think of the employees at their favorite restaurant skipping thorough hand washing after using the restroom. Still, improper hand washing is a common cause of bacterial spread. Pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and norovirus are all commonly spread through poor personal hygiene practices.
Improper Food Storage and Handling
Health codes require specific conditions to be met when handling and storing foods. These regulations are in place to minimize the risk of spreading germs. For example, foods such as fruits and vegetables that may be served raw should never be stored in the same areas as raw meats, poultry, or eggs. Additionally, staff should always wear gloves when directly handling prepared foods.
Failure to adhere to these rules increases the risk of food poisoning occurring. If you notice poor food handling and storage at a Little Italy restaurant, consider filing a report with New York City Health.
Can I Sue After Getting Food Poisoning at a Restaurant?
You can sue a New York City restaurant if you contract food poisoning after eating there. Cases are frequently settled before going through the civil court system. However, as a victim of restaurant negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for current and future medical bills, lost wages, and any associated pain and suffering.
If a mass poisoning event or outbreak is linked to the restaurant in question, an investigation may uncover gross negligence. This opens the possibility of seeking punitive damages against the establishment.
Making a Food Poisoning Case Against a Restaurant
While you can technically sue a restaurant after contracting food poisoning, it is not an easy claim to prove. To be successful, you must show that:
- The restaurant failed to meet its duty of safe food handling, storage, and preparation
- You became ill due to a foodborne bacteria contracted as a result of that failure
- You incurred damages as a result of your illness
Your claims will be easier to prove if your illness was part of a large outbreak investigated by the CDC or NYC Health.
What Are the Steps To File a Lawsuit?
Speak With a Personal Injury Attorney
When you sue a restaurant in New York, you must be able to show that the establishment or its staff directly caused your illness. This can be difficult since you have already eaten the food. Additionally, the restaurant could argue that any leftovers were contaminated in your home refrigerator or improperly stored before they arrived.
A personal injury attorney will work to show the restaurant in question caused your injuries. This can include examining previous health inspector reports, visiting the restaurant and documenting health code violations, speaking with current and former staff members about possible violations or unsafe practices, and having food samples tested for common pathogens.
Seek Medical Assistance
As noted earlier, many cases of food poisoning resolve on their own within a few days, and some people do not even realize they have contracted a foodborne illness. However, if you’ve been sick for a few days, you want to seek medical attention. It is also a good idea to see a doctor if you suspect food poisoning earlier, for example, if everyone who ate the same type of meat at the restaurant falls ill.
When you go to the doctor, mention that you ate out and ask to be tested for common causes of food poisoning. Establishing a precise diagnosis serves two purposes. First, it allows your doctor to customize treatment. It also shows that you were the victim of contaminated food.
Contact Health Authorities
Reporting your illness is more critical than you might imagine. However, these reports are used by the Health Department to track cases of food poisoning to the source. It is often possible to pinpoint the exact employee or food safety violation that contributed to the food poisoning. Additionally, data may be used to identify patterns, such as inferior products further down the supply chain, which are beyond an individual restaurant’s control.
Keep Accurate Records
Feeling queasy or having an unsettled stomach for a few days may be caused by food poisoning, but it isn’t enough to file a lawsuit. You must be able to document your illness through a paper trail. Doctor’s notes, medical records, test results, and verification of missed work or school can all serve this purpose. Talking to people who ate at the restaurant with you can also help clarify if others became ill after the meal.
Schedule a Case Evaluation To Discuss Your Options
Seeking compensation after contracting food poisoning can be difficult, but you don’t have to face it alone. Our attorneys at Cellino Law have a long record of securing awards for our New York clients. Contact us for a free case evaluation. Once we review the facts, we’ll sit down with you to explore options and discuss a strategy for moving forward.
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