Over the years, many potential clients have come to me with questions about whether they have an actionable personal injury case for money damages if they order food and it comes with a “surprise,” such as bug legs, a staple, mold, or human body parts.

Yes, I’ve fielded questions involving all of those things, including some that are even more disgusting. I’ll spare you those.

You should be able to sue for this, right?

Not quite so fast.

Let me explain.

Gross and Disgusting a Lawsuit Do Not Make

To break things down to the basics, four elements are required for a personal injury claim:

  • A duty to do or not do something;
  • A breach of that duty by a responsible party or parties;
  • A causal connection between that breach and the damages complained of:
  • And, actual damages.

If you go to the drive-through of a fast-food restaurant and bite into your burger only to find a foreign body (a hair, a bug leg, a piece of plastic), you’d think you have a great case. You should be in line for compensatory damages:

-The restaurant had a duty to give you the burger you paid for.

-The restaurant breached that duty by giving you the burger you paid for PLUS the gross, disgusting add-on.

-But for that gross, disgusting add-on, you wouldn’t have suffered the damages…

….oh, wait. Actual damages. A bug is gross. Maybe it made you gag. But did you sustain an actual injury? Did you lose a leg or have to miss three months of work because of a cockroach allergy? Probably not, so your damagers are next to nothing.

In such a scenario, the best you can do is take the food back with your receipt and ask for a refund.

What Counts as Actual Damages?

Now, let’s change things a bit. You bite into your burger without looking at it. After eating it, you become violently ill, vomiting repeatedly. You go to the hospital where the medical professionals confirmed the meat was spoiled. You’re diagnosed with food poisoning and sent home with your ER bill.

Or suppose you bite into your fish sandwich only to find it especially chewy. You spit out an animal leg, perhaps that of a rat. You become violently ill, and you go to the emergency room, where you are treated. The ER confirms that you ate an animal part, and once again, send you along your way with an ER bill. 

Now, both of those situations are DISGUSTING.

And both may be viable cases, too. While your damages are likely minimal (one ER visit and a few times vomiting), you probably have a case worth pursuing. Depending upon what turns up during formal discovery, for example, if this particular location has had repeated food-borne illness or foreign body claims, you might even be in line for punitive damages. Definitely the type of situation to bring to a lawyer’s attention.

See the difference? Just gross – not a case. Gross AND damages – let’s talk.

Do Not DIY

You cannot handle these cases yourself. First of all, restaurants push back hard on these cases since they are so common and so difficult to prove. Second, self-represented litigants are rarely taken seriously by behemoth insurers or large restaurant groups. Third, you won’t have the foggiest idea how to prove your case or what it might be worth.

What you should do before seeing a lawyer is:

  • Get medical treatment as soon as possible. Give the facility the exact history of what you did, ate, what happened, and when.
  • Report this to the place you purchased it. If possible, make a written report. Ask for a copy or take a photo with your phone.
  • Save your receipt and the food that is left. Photograph everything, including disgusting interlopers.
  • Do NOT share your experience online or write a review of the facility.
  • Then, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have gotten ill after eating something from a restaurant, get medical treatment, report the incident, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case.

If you’ve received medical attention because of something you ate and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.