Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning in Maryland?

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Food poisoning is fairly common in Maryland. Only the major outbreaks receive media attention. People who fall ill can sue a restaurant in Maryland for severe food poisoning if the actions or inactions of the establishment or its staff caused harm. You may also be able to sue a restaurant or the ownership company over the use of a contaminated product.

Food poisoning can be serious and even fatal. It’s understandable for the victims and their family to want to sue a restaurant, a store, or a food manufacturer for the injury. Establishing blame for food poisoning is seldom straightforward. Consider hiring an experienced Baltimore personal injury lawyer in these cases.

Common Types of Food Poisoning from Restaurants or Food Chains in Maryland

Restaurants caused numerous severe outbreaks of food poisoning throughout the United States in recent years, causing permanent illnesses and wrongful death. However, there are many causes of food poisoning and different types of infections.


There are hundreds of different types of salmonella bacteria. They are not all harmful to humans. Salmonella is found in the intestines, bowels, and the feces of humans and animals. Salmonella poisoning is associated with poor handling practices of meat or poultry. Restaurants cause contamination by failing to adopt good hygiene practices but handling facilities and abattoirs also cause salmonella infections.

Most people infected with salmonella develop symptoms including diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps up to 72 hours after infection. The illness typically lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some cases, victims end up being hospitalized. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses every year in the United States. About 23,000 people are admitted to hospitals and 450 people die annually from salmonella poisoning. It is the most common form of food poisoning.

E. Coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria found in certain foods and intestines of people and animals. While most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can cause food poisoning. Some kinds of E. coli cause diarrhea. Others are associated with urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, and even serious conditions like pneumonia.

In May 2019, CDC warned of a multi-state outbreak of E. coli in ground beef. Products were recalled across the nation. The outbreak hospitalized 28 people. The outbreak caused two cases of kidney failure.

The CDC reminded restaurant staff and other people to keep raw meat separate from other foods and to wash their hands after handling raw meat.

Listeria Infection

Listeria infection is another foodborne bacterial illness. Although listeria does not harm many people it can be serious for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Listeria infection is often contracted by eating improperly processed deli meats and unpasteurized milk products. It is also found in melons.

Listeria infection may be fatal to unborn babies and newborns, states the Mayo Clinic. People with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to life-threatening complications. Doctors should promptly treat people who suffer Listeriosis with prompt antibiotic treatments.


Noroviruses are the most common causes of acute stomach and intestine illnesses in Maryland and elsewhere. People infected with Norovirus can spread it directly to others. It can contaminate drinks or foods they prepare for others. On occasion, restaurant workers have spread Norovirus to customers through the food they prepared. The virus can be spread via contaminated surfaces. Common sources of infection include shellfish, prepared foods touched by infected food workers like fruit, sandwiches, and salads.

Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens is one of the most common forms of food poisoning. Some studies suggest the virus sickens as many as a million people every year in the United States. Cooking kills the cells of bacteria, but not necessarily spores. This infection often occurs when foods are prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a considerable time before serving. Food poisoning outbreaks are associated with mass catering at schools, nursing homes, prisons, and when an outside caterer such as a restaurant provides food for a large event.

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A virus causes the liver disease Hepatitis A. The disease is spread via food or water contaminated by stool from an infected person. Vaccinations can prevent hepatitis A. Doctors recommend vaccinations for people who travel to particular countries.

Examples of Severe Food Poisoning Cases in Maryland

Restaurants have caused many severe food poisoning outbreaks. Diners died from infections in some cases.

In 1978, 34 people who ate at a restaurant in Clovis, New Mexico because violently ill from botulism. Two people died. The illness was linked to a contaminated salad.

In 1993, about 700 people became ill and four children died after eating undercooked hamburgers at Jack in the Box restaurants. The incident led to the imposition of tighter rules in the meat processing industry.

In 2003, a Pennsylvania chain restaurant called Chi-Chi’s harmed more than 500 diners when they were served with green onions they received from Mexico contaminated with Hepatitis A.

In 2013, about 80 people suffered E. coli poisoning after eating food from Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, Arizona. About 23 people were hospitalized from the outbreak. Lawsuits were filed against the restaurant’s parent company.

In 2015, 45 people contracted E. coli from Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. Scores of restaurants were closed for a short time across the country by the outbreak that hospitalized 16 people. In 2018, more than 700 people fell ill after eating food from a Chipotle restaurant in Ohio. The outbreak was traced to clostridium perfringens — a foodborne disease caused by food being left around at unsafe temperatures.

Although you can sue a restaurant in Maryland for food poisoning, not all infections are caused by these establishments. One of the worst episodes of food poisoning in recent years was traced to infected cantaloupes distributed across the states by Rocky Mountain Cantaloupe. Listeria in cantaloupes caused 147 cases of food poisoning and 33 deaths.

In 2001. Sara Lee Corporation paid $4.4 million to settle lawsuits and criminal charges over contaminated hot dogs linked to 15 deaths.

How to Sue a Restaurant in Maryland for Food Poisoning

It’s not always straightforward to sue a restaurant in Maryland over food poisoning. There are many causes of symptoms associated with food poisonings like stomach cramps and diarrhea. See your doctor as soon as possible so as samples can be taken. File a report with your local health department. Given the complexity of these cases, it’s only worth suing a restaurant or a cafe if your symptoms were severe and involved hospitalization.

A restaurant has a duty to its customers to act in a reasonable manner and to ensure food is safe for you to eat. This involves complying with all state food and hygiene codes. A restaurant breaches its duty to diners by maintaining a dirty kitchen and storing food in dangerous and unsanitary ways.

It can be challenging to make a case against a restaurant. Even if you can prove food was stored in dirty and inappropriate conditions, you must prove the restaurant’s food caused your illness. This is seldom straightforward. However, it’s easier to establish a case if a restaurant chain has recalled items or other cases of food poisoning have been reported from that establishment.

You must be able to show negligence on behalf of a restaurant in its food safety practices caused your illness.

People who suffer serious food poisoning in Maryland may also have grounds to bring product liability cases. In recent years, contaminated products like peanut butter, cantaloupes, and spinach sickened hundreds of people. You may be able to sue a manufacturer, a wholesaler, a store, or a restaurant that failed to heed warnings about a contaminated product.

Maryland has a strict liability approach to defective products. You are not required to show a manufacturer failed to exercise the required care, merely that you ate contaminated food and it made you ill.

Restaurants often seek to make excuses to avoid being held liable. Management may say an employee failed to wash his or her hands, despite being instructed to do so. However, a restaurant can be liable for the activities of its employees while they are acting in the scope of their employment.

Damages for Food Poisoning from a Restaurant in Maryland

Although many people who suffer food poisoning make quick recoveries, infections can be terrible ordeals that cause permanent illness and even death. Children and elderly people are particularly vulnerable. Listeria is linked to fetal illness and death in pregnant women.

If you suffer from food poisoning, you may be able to sue a Maryland restaurant, coffee shop, cafe, store, distributor or food manufacturer for:

  • Lost income past and future;
  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Out of pocket expenses;
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Death benefits when food poisoning killed a family member.

Call a Baltimore, MD Food Poisoning Lawyer to Help You File a Lawsuit Against a Restaurant or Food Chain

At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers will evaluate your food poisoning injury claim. We consider whether you have grounds to sue a restaurant or another liable party and advise you of your rights. Please contact the Law Offices of Randolph Rice as soon as possible at 410-RICE-LAW.


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