To eat someone's cooking is to trust them - it's very personal if you stop to consider the risk you take. And when a restaurant or store earns that trust, they owe you a duty to serve wholesome, uncontaminated food. If you've suffered food poisoning because a restaurant failed to cook food properly, or otherwise allow bacteria or contaminants into your food, you are entitled to damages.
These are cases you don't hear about too frequently, but they are important and I enjoy helping people who have suffered these injuries obtain compensation. We all have to eat out from time to time (and sometimes a lot) and this is an area where lawsuits make businesses more careful, which is a good thing.
It is a well-known fact that bacteria colonize and multiply in food sources that are undercooked, or improperly stored. The consequences can range from discomfort to hospitalization, serious injury, and even death. The challenge in these cases is establishing which food caused the injury, so see below for basic things you need to know.
It happens: things that NEVER should be in your food, make it into your food. Some are ultimately harmless, such as insect parts in fresh produce. Some are disgusting, like the presence of hair, or roaches. And some are potentially very harmful, like glass in a can of food...yes, I had that case as well.
The Uniform Commercial Code, in the Code of Virginia, established an implied warranty for serving unwholesome food. In short, every food item you buy comes with a warranty from the seller, and the manufacturer (if different), that it is safe to consume. Sellers are in the best position to prevent food borne illness, so the law makes them responsible. Virginia Code Section 8.2-314.
Virginia Courts ruled this way before the statute was even on the books, holding that:
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you have suffered from food poisoning or contaminated food, you should:
- SAVE THE FOOD/FOREIGN OBJECT! This is very important if you should still have it with you. Freeze if necessary.
- Notify the restaurant
- Notify the Health Department if food poisoning is diagnosed. Sometimes restaurants have outbreaks and the Health Department should have the information.
- Keep a journal: what you ate in the days leading up to your illness, and when you had the first onset of symptoms
- Seek medical attention
- Contact a lawyer