You have just been out to dinner at your favorite New Mexico restaurant. The food was delicious, the atmosphere wonderful, but toward the end of the evening you begin to notice chills, nausea and cold sweats. By morning you are feverish and possibly vomiting or enduring other side effects. You realize you are suffering from food poisoning, likely as a result of contaminated, mishandled or spoiled food at the restaurant last night. Whether or not you are hospitalized or left with severe damages as a result of your food poisoning, do you have a case for personal injury?
As far as the USDA is concerned, yes. Food prepared for you by a business or supplied by a third party is covered under product liability laws, and there is a strong intersection between U.S. law on food safety and disease prevention and U.S. law on product liability and responsibility for personal injury. When it comes to food-borne pathogens causing illness, product liability can rely on a number of factors. The first is negligence, in which the restaurant can be held responsible for its employees improperly cleaning, handling or preparing food.
Another major component of product liability law in food service is the breach of warranty. When restaurants or other food service businesses provide you with food, there is both express and implied warranty that the food is safe for consumption. Implied warranty comes from the assumption that a food service business can be trusted to uphold a certain level of ethics in ensuring food meets standards for human consumption. Express warranty involves any affirmations made about the food to entice consumers to eat it. In the case of food poisoning, one or both may have been breached depending on the situation.
This is an information post meant for reference only, and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel.