When a Nice Meal Becomes a Nightmare: Restaurant Liability

Have you ever had a restaurant mess up your order? While eating out, you’ve probably experienced some minor mistakes, like getting a rare steak when you asked for it well-done. Restaurants can be busy places, and small mistakes can often be easily dealt with by informing your server.

But when it comes to dangerous ingredients and potential allergens, even a small mistake can have big consequences.

A complex case over a restaurant’s mistake is currently unfolding in St. Pete Beach, concerning a patron’s painful visit to the Don Cesar Hotel. The incident occurred when a waiter used liquid nitrogen, a very cold form of nitrogen that is sometimes used in food presentation to give dishes a smoky appearance, while preparing a dessert for patrons at an on-site restaurant owned by the hotel. At some point, the waiter who was preparing the dish put some liquid nitrogen in the water glass of another patron, who became seriously ill after drinking the water. The woman required stomach and gallbladder surgery due to burns from the cold liquid.

Illness and Injuries at Restaurants

While the circumstances of this case might be rare, serious injuries and illnesses can occur at restaurants. Other issues that can turn a nice meal into a nightmare include:

  • Food poisoning
  • Undeclared allergens
  • Foreign materials in food, like plastic or glass
  • Burns
  • Choking and improper CPR efforts

Issues like these aren’t just an inconvenience. For example, if someone has a nut allergy and orders a dessert after being assured that it does not have nuts in it, they could experience life-threatening allergic reaction if they are served the wrong dessert. Injuries or illnesses that occur at restaurants can lead to expensive medical bills, lost wages, and stress and suffering.

Who is Liable for a Restaurant Injury?

Restaurant owners invite guests onto their premises. Therefore, they are liable for any foreseeable injuries or damages. This means that the injury or damage must have been predictable or preventable. If a restaurant knowingly serves a soup at a dangerous temperature, the injury to a patron might be foreseeable.  On the other hand, if a patron spills a drink and another patron slips on the spill within minutes, the restaurant might not be liable. The event was unforeseeable, and the staff would not have had time to prevent the injury.

In some situations, particularly food poisoning, an outside party, like a manufacturer, might be responsible instead of the restaurant. If a waiter warns a patron about a hot dish, but the patron ignores their advice, then the patron might be comparatively negligent if any injury occurs.

The Next Steps

Like with all premise liability cases, there are important steps to follow. Immediately report your injury to a restaurant manager, so that they can file an injury report. When you don’t report your injury right away, it becomes easier for a dishonest owner to cover up the damage, or insist that your injury did not happen on their property. If you can, take photos or video of the scene of the accident, especially if your injury was caused by a wet floor, something in your food, or something else that can easily be documented.

If you know the steps to take following a restaurant liability issue, it’ll make your next meal out much more enjoyable!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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