What Did You Just Find In Your Food? (And Should You Sue Over It?)

What happens when find something foreign in your food? Food that's been tainted with foreign objects can be distressing and disgusting, but when is it a cause for a personal injury lawsuit?

It Depends On What It Is And What It Does

Essentially, whether or not you have a potential lawsuit depends a lot on what you find in your food and what it does to you. 

There's no way to prevent every possible contaminant from getting into your food, despite the best of precautions. For example, the cook may be wearing a hairnet and gloves, but a stray hair may still end up on your plate. As unpleasant as that may be, you probably don't have a lawsuit because the presence of the hair did you no real physical harm and was unlikely to cause you any lasting psychological damage.

However, there have been cases where food has been intentionally contaminated, and the contamination caused either serious physical illness or lasting psychological harm.

While it's not a common occurrence, a recent survey indicates that 6% of restaurant workers actually admit to spitting in a customer's food. In at least one case, restaurant workers intentionally urinated in a police officer's food, causing his children to get sick. In those situations, the physical and psychological damages can be extensive, and you have a good reason for a personal injury lawsuit!

There are also times when something dangerous gets into food accidentally - such as a cleaning chemical or pieces of glass or metal. In those situations, you again have to consider whether or not the contaminant was discovered before or after any of it was ingested. If it was never ingested, you may have had a close call - but you aren't likely to have much of a personal injury claim because nobody was actually injured.

The situation is different, naturally, if you swallowed something that landed you in the hospital. You might also have a claim if the nature of the item - a dead rodent, for example - left you with psychological damages that continue to affect you in some way.

Why Does It Matter So Much?

Personal injury lawsuits are usually about trying to repay someone for the damages that they've suffered through someone else's negligent or intentional actions. In lawsuits related to the presence of foreign substances in your food, damages could include things like:

  • emergency room bills
  • the cost of medical tests
  • the cost of follow-up visits with your doctor
  • the cost of therapy appointments, including counseling
  • lost wages or sick leave if you missed work
  • the cost of dental work if you injured a tooth or teeth
  • pain and suffering 
  • emotional distress (especially if you've developed some sort of anxiety related to the incident)

If the contamination was purposeful, you may even be able to seek punitive damages, which are designed to punish especially terrible behavior and prevent others from behaving in the same way.

While not every situation involving contaminated food will result in a lawsuit, you should always talk to an attorney to discuss the matter if you got sick or if you are still experiencing psychological trauma related to the incident. You have a right to recover your damages and seek compensation for your injuries.

For more information, contact Swartz & Swartz P.C. or a similar firm.