Archive for August 2016
Recently in the news, we heard about a situation where a waiter served a man a meal which contained food he was allergic to even though the man had forewarned the waiter about this allergy. Simon-Pierre Canuel was in a coma for several days after being served salmon tartar to which he has a severe allergy.
This situation gives rise to the question as to whether the waiter (or anyone else) was civilly liable for the mishap – meaning, can Mr. Canuel successfully sue the waiter?
Any action or omission that is the subject of a civil claim (where one person sues another) will fall on a scale from accidental to intentional, with negligent (think of it as extreme carelessness) being near the middle. An intentional act would occur if a restaurant worker intended to act in a way that would clearly harm a person. It is more likely that being served food that you are allergic to would fall somewhere between an accident and negligence. To constitute an accident, it would have to be shown that the result of what the worker did couldn’t be easily expected nor easily prevented. Finally, negligence, which is neither intentional nor accidental, is when a person fails to provide the proper care that the law requires them to give.
This situation would likely be a case of negligence. Negligence occurs when someone acts in a way where they could have expected that harm would occur, or they could have easily prevented the harm. To establish that a defendant was negligent, the most common approach is to prove three things. (1) There is a duty of care (2) that was breached, (3) resulting in damage. This test is in its simplest form, and usually requires a much more detailed analysis, but for our purposes – this should be enough.
First, there must be a duty of care that is recognised by law. To show this, lawyers will look at past cases to see if restaurant workers are expected to act in a way that ensures that the customers they serve stay safe. If there is no such case, then the lawyers will have to establish a new duty of care. The lawyers would have to show that restaurant workers should be expected to make sure the customers don’t come to any harm.
Second, it is necessary to show that the restaurant worker acted or failed to act in the way they should have. The kinds of things that could be expected at a restaurant could include, for example, requiring that the waiter ask about allergies or for the restaurant to have a plan to ensure no contact with dangerous food.
Third, someone or something must have suffered harm or damage and this harm or damage must have occurred because of the restaurant worker’s actions. A severe allergic reaction, causing harm to your health would satisfy this part of the test.
If you should ever find yourself the victim of a severe allergic reaction to food after notifying the server or the restaurant of your allergy, it is always best to consult with a personal injury lawyer to see if your circumstances would give rise to legal action.