The 1987 Consumer Protection Act legally binds retailers to sell products that are free of bacteria likely to trigger food poisoning. If it can be proven that this was not the case, affected people can hold restaurants liable for food poisoning.
Holding restaurants liable for food poisoning
Essentially, when someone suffers food poisoning and they can prove that they contracted the food poisoning by eating at a specific restaurant, strict liability applies.
What this means
Strict liability means that unlike injuries by slips, trips and falls, for example, food poisoning outbreaks do not require potential claimants to prove that a restaurant was negligent. Instead, all they have to prove is that they consumed food contaminated with bacteria and that this food was provided by the restaurant.
Balance of probabilities
The main difficulty in suing restaurants liable for food poisoning is proving that a bout of food poisoning was indeed caused by the food eaten at a particular restaurant. Potential claimants have to show that on balance of probabilities, their food-related illness was caused by food served at the restaurant in question.
This could prove difficult. With an injury by slipping, tripping or falling, where cause (slip, trip or fall hazard) and outcome (the injury) are usually immediately apparent to all, gathering evidence (like witness statements, for instance) is comparatively easy. Food poisoning, however, typically takes a few hours to develop, by which time the affected individual has left the restaurant. They may even have visited other establishments (pubs, clubs, etc.) in the meantime.
Speedy action required
By the time a week or two has passed, it may not even be possible to remember who else was there and what they ate (which could be particularly helpful if others also experienced food poisoning symptoms). Quick action is therefore of utmost importance.
To claim or not to claim
What’s more, a minor bout of food poisoning may cause nothing more than a few hours or days of discomfort without incurring any major expenses. With the possibility of even no win no fee* claims incurring some costs, the question here is whether claiming against restaurants liable for food poisoning is really worth it.
Serious illness caused by food
In cases where food poisoning involves dangerous microbes like salmonella or e.coli and/or hospitalisation, however, medical and other costs may make it worthwhile discussing the case with an Accident Advice Helpline solicitor. If this applies to you, call our confidential 24/7 helpline 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 from your mobile to evaluate your options.
Date Published: December 9, 2015
Author: David Brown