Food poisoning and the law
If you have been the victim of food poisoning you may be able to bring a claim against the restaurant that caused you to become ill. The Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that a retailer must sell products free from bacteria which could cause food poisoning. If you can prove that this was not the case then you have an actionable claim to bring and should contact a solicitor.
It is important to note that if you can show that the food poisoning which you have suffered from was caused by the retailer/restaurant then there is strict liability in regard to the offence. In other words, you will not have to prove that the restaurant was negligent, but instead if you can prove that the food poisoning was caused by a product which was not free from bacteria, and that this food was supplied by the restaurant, you have a valid claim.
Difficulties proving a claim
The difficulty with proving a claim for food poisoning is always going to be demonstrating that the food poisoning you are suffering from was caused by the food which you ate in the restaurant.
As the claimant the onus will be on you to show that on the balance of probabilities, the food that caused the illness was that provided by the restaurant.
It is therefore clear from the above that quick action is vital in a claim for food poisoning. You cannot expect to make a claim three weeks after you suffered from food poisoning, without any evidence to show that the poisoning was caused by the restaurant three weeks earlier.
Getting a doctor’s note confirming you had the illness and the date at which you had it, will be crucial to any claim.
Settling out of court
One point to note, before somebody rushes off to see a solicitor and begin suing a restaurant or retailer, is the fact that it will be far more practical and cost effective if you can deal with the situation between you without commencing proceedings.
A restaurant is a business and so will not want you never to return to the restaurant again, it will also not want the negative publicity of a court action for food poisoning being brought against it.
It will therefore be in the restaurant’s interests to settle any dispute with you. This will usually involve offering to repay you the cost of your meal and allowing you to eat there again for free or offering some other compensation. Whilst you may not wish to return to a restaurant that has just given you food poisoning, if this is a regular place you visit and this is the first time this has occurred, you may well be more susceptible to that type of offer.
It should also be noted that commencing litigation can be a costly exercise, especially if you consider that your compensation for your ‘loss’ as a result of the food poisoning may be minimal (in financial terms).
It is in the interests of everyone to secure a compromise without involving the courts. However, if the retailer/restaurant is not willing to compensate you may wish to contact a solicitor.
If you have been a victim of food poisoning you should be aware that you may have an actionable claim, but that early action to demonstrate it was the restaurant/retailer that caused the poisoning is vital.