food poisoning and my rights

I got a nasty case of food poisoning from the cafe in my office building last Thurs. As a freelancer, that means I didn’t get paid for Fri (as I had to take the day off work, seeing as how I was home writhing around in pain).

I’m going to ask the cafe management to reimburse me for my day of lost pay. Not asking them for any pain & suffering, or to cover the costs of the concert ticket for Sat night I had to throw out. Just my lost wages.

They may be nice and agree. But knowing human nature, I doubt it. So do I have any rights in demanding the pay if they give me trouble?

Details for those who need it:
I live in CA. I had dinner no later than 9pm the night before. On Thurs, I did not eat breakfast (never do), had lunch around noon, started showing signs of illness about 2 hours later, by 3pm was sick enough that I went home. By that evening, I was in full throes of food poisoning, achy muscles, pain in kidneys, stomach cramps, nausea. It is now Sun and it is finally coming to an end, though I still hurt.

I never went to the doctor – have had food poisoning before and I know the drill: lots of water, lots of rest, wait it out. But that means I have no written proof of what it was, even though I am quite sure of it.

Any suggestions?

You probably had food poisoning, but that is the luck of the draw, especially with no proof. During that e. coli break out at Jack in the box in the early nineties a doctor said that many cases of sudden illness after a meal is probably e. coli. In the place where I worked used to get complaints once and a while - all they we, given was a free meal!!

A similar thing happened to a friend of mine until a chance remark brought out that he had taken his meal as takeout and had left it sitting in his office for three hours having forgotten a prior meeting. :smack:

IANAL, but I think you would have an extremely tough case to prove. I think you might also have to show that the cafe did it on purpose or was extraordinarily negligent in its food preparation.

I imagine that there is a great deal of common law about these sort of matters as people have been suing people over bad food for a long time.

It would be tough to prove due to cause and effect, but you do not have to show intention or wilfull and wanton negligence. In fact, although I’m not sure about this, the cafe might be analagous to a common carrier, wherein it would have to exercise more than ordinary care. If you could show that it was food poisoning caused by the cafe’s food (a difficult hurdle), the cafe would be liable based either on simple negligence or the failure to exercise the due care needed in such situations.

When I worked at a cafe (fiiine…corporate, nonStarbucks coffee shop), every few months someone would call the store or come by complaining of the horrible ‘food poisoning’ they got from the coffee, the cream, the poundcake, the rugalahs, etc. The thing is, these wers always isolated. If the cream pitchers were actually vomit and diarrhea hives as the customers claimed, we’d have had waves of calls and probably a visit from the municipal and county health inspectors.

Food posioning has an extrmemly variable onset time, anywhere from 1 to 168 hours, depending on what you got. cite. So it’s really difiicult to pinpoint exactly where you got. Unless you’ve only eaten at the restaurant for the past week, I don’t think you’ll be able to prove your case.

Without documentation from a doctor I suspect you are shit out of luck (bad pun, sorry).

The vast majority businesses are not going to pay damages/make a settlement without the potential plaintiff having a reasonable chance of prevailing in court. Without a doctor’s testimony, it is your word against theirs, and that is not enough to satisfy the burden of proof in your favor.

That was going to be my comment.

If it was food poisoning, it could’ve been from the restaurant you ate at the night before or from some contaminated chicken you had on monday from your own fridge.

You’ve got no leg to stand on.

I wouldn’t say that. It’s a matter of proof. Is it more likely than not that your food poisoning was caused by a meal eaten two hours before or by one eaten about 20 hours previously? The cafe may be willing to reimburse you for a day’s pay both to avoid any possible suit and just for good public relations.

You don’t know which is more likely. That’s the point. Depends on what type of food posioning he had and even then pinpointing the time is extrememly iffy. That’s why when they investigate mass food posioning cases, they look for the common factor, not the food eaten at a precise time.

Salmonella (one of the more common food posionings) has a fairly long onset, anywhere from 6 to 72 hours. That’s a really long window. From personal experience, I got salmonella from a small bakery once and it took a couple of days to hit me. The only reason I knew it was that bakery is becasue that’s all I’d eaten that week and I only ate every couple of days (I was in a quasi-anorectic phase at the time). But unless your diets been that restricted, there’s no way to tell.

I’d have to agree with Tremorviolet. There is really no evidence here that the cafe is responsible. Two hours is a really short incubation time. I’d put my bets on dinner the night before. But, regardless of those probabilities, I don’t think you have much of a case. You didn’t go to the doctor, so you can’t even prove that you had food poisoning. Maybe you had a stomach virus?

The cafe might pay under threat of a suit, but you will lose if you go to court. And no, I’m not a lawyer, just a microbiologist.

At the very least, you could tell them you got food poisoning. If they (stupidly) reply, “yeah, you’re the twentieth person to say that!” then you’ll be more likely to extract compensation from them. Of course, you could also call the last three or four places you ate at in the last couple of days and try to elicit the same response. Good luck, and I hope you feel better!


That’s exactly what I was going to point out. For that matter, the cafe has only your word that you were even SICK.

Thanks for the replies.

Only thing the was iffy was that I felt great. Ate the food. Got sick shortly afterwards. And yeah 2 hours is quick, but that was just onset. Real pain kept intensifying, got awful that evening, lasted all weekend.

Timing just seems to point at the cafe, and I’d say the odds are strong, but there’s no way to guarantee it.

Two hours is a bit too quick. It’s possible that it was the cafe, but at that point it is much more likely to have been dinner from the night before or some other cause.

I’d alert the cafe, and any other places you’ve eaten at lately. They may have safety issues they need to fix. If they have other reported cases of food poisoning, they will probably give you whatever you ask for- they don’t want to get sued. But if it is an isolated incident, don’t count on much since you can’t pinpoint what exactly did it and you have no documentation from a doctor. I worked at a restraurant where we’d occasionally get people calling in claiming they got food poisoning from foods that pretty much can’t be tainted, with the wrong onset times, and were the only case out of hundreds of people that ate from that same batch all day long. We pretty much told them we were sorry they were sick, but it wasn’t our fault.