Can I Sue for Food Poisoning?

tasty surf turf steak and lobster meal with aspa 2022 03 29 07 03 18 utcYou come home after a night out at a new restaurant with a knotted stomach, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. Whether it’s E.coli, Hep. A, Listeria, or another foodborne illness, food poisoning is never a pretty picture. And if you’ve ever gotten a bad enough case of food poisoning you may find yourself wondering if you can pursue legal action against the restaurant for your misfortune. 

While it is possible to go after businesses or manufacturers for food poisoning cases, it’s important to understand the typical rewards for such cases, as well what grounds you would have to sue for food poisoning. 

Awards for Food Poisoning Cases

Though definitely uncomfortable, many instances of food poisoning only last several hours, with little downtime, medical expense, or wages lost. Large sums of money are almost never won for food-poisoning cases, except for exceptional cases where damages are much greater. 

For example, the 2008 Listeria outbreak from Maple Leaf Foods in Toronto which cost the company nearly twenty seven million dollars paid to thousands of victims. This figure also includes million dollar payouts to each of the families of 20 people who lost their lives as a result of the contamination. 

Generally speaking, though, food poisoning can be exceptionally difficult to prove. For example, if you eat at a restaurant on Friday but don’t start feeling the onset of symptoms until a day or two later, it may be difficult to prove that the restaurant is solely at fault, since you likely ate elsewhere between consumption and onset. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that food isn’t the only reason you may experience G.I. issues. 

Product recalls and government acknowledgement of health risks associated with specific foods can make it much easier to prove a food poisoning case.  

Reasons You May Have a Case to Sue for Food Poisoning

Strict Product Liability Cases

When an individual is injured by a dangerous or defective product and decides to pursue financial compensation the claim falls under product liability. Food poisoning lawsuits fall under this category of personal injury claims. Product liability laws dictate that you only need to prove that the food (product) you ate was defective and what caused your sickness.

Serving expired products also falls under product liability. 


You can also pursue a food poisoning claim on the basis of negligence. Negligence, legally speaking, means that the party that provided the good/service was not reasonably careful during the preparation or service of the food. In these cases, you can argue that the restaurant was negligent in their preparation and serving. 

For example, if a certain kind of tomato was recently recalled but still used in a sauce or dish, you may be able to sue for food poisoning on the basis of negligence. 

This negligence can travel farther up the line to the distributor if there is any proof that there was negligence in the growing or preparation for food. 


The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Washington state is 3 years. 

If you’ve suffered from a foodborne illness and believe you have a case for personal injury, please contact one of our product liability attorneys to discuss your case and possible courses of action.