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How to Sue McDonald’s (or Any Other Fast Food Company)

Sometimes, when dining at a fast-food restaurant like McDonalds, things can go terribly wrong. It’s common for fast-food clients and employees to experience accidents, illnesses, and even harassment within the establishment. Depending on prevailing laws in your State, these events may warrant legal action. Let’s discuss how to sue McDonald’s and the grounds necessary to win your case. 

Grounds for McDonald’s Lawsuit

Your grounds for suing McDonalds depend largely on your relationship with the fast-food company. Are you a customer, or are you an employee?

Let’s start from there.

If you experienced any of the following, you may have legitimate grounds for legal action:

Slip and Fall

Imagine this: you walk into a McDonalds, and due to a wet patch on the floor, you slip and fall on the hard surface. Any injury you sustain because of this accident may be grounds for a lawsuit on the basis that McDonald’s was negligent in maintaining a safe environment. To succeed in this lawsuit, you must show that the restaurant failed to ensure your safety, resulting in a slip-and-fall accident, and you suffered damages as a result. 

Food Contamination

Another unfortunate situation can involve food poisoning after eating a meal at McDonald’s. Food-borne illnesses can occur from improper food handling, storage, or preparation. To initiate legal action against McDonald’s based on food contamination, you’ll need to prove that their food directly caused the illness. Collecting and preserving evidence such as leftover food, receipts, and medical records are critical to prove this claim.

Negligent Hiring or Training

This ground becomes relevant when or if you experience damage or injury due to interactions with a McDonald’s employee. Let’s say you had a harmful interaction with an improperly trained or negligently hired employee. If the harm caused relates to their job performance, then you may have grounds for a lawsuit against McDonald’s. To successfully win this suit, you need to demonstrate that the company failed to ensure that its employees are competent on the job.

Defective Products

Sometimes, issues may extend beyond the food itself. Consider a situation where a defective product, such as a toy in a Happy Meal, causes harm to your loved one. McDonald’s may be liable for injuries resulting from defective products served with their meals. To pursue this type of case, you need to prove that the product was defective and that it led to your loved one’s injury.

False Advertising

Fast-food chains often use enticing advertising to attract customers. If you believe that McDonald’s engaged in false advertising by misrepresenting their products or deals in a way that misled you, you may have a case for deceptive practices. To succeed, you must show evidence that the advertising was false or misleading and that it influenced your decisions.

Workplace Discrimination or Harassment

If you experience discrimination or harassment as a McDonald’s employee, you can take legal action against the restaurant. The case involves proving that McDonald’s failed to address or prevent discriminatory or harassing behavior within their employees.  

Steps for Suing McDonalds

A large part of successfully suing McDonald’s depends on what you do right after the incident necessitating the lawsuit. Here are the typical essential steps for suing McDonald’s’ in these cases.

Get Medical Help

The first and most important step is to seek medical attention. Your health and well-being should always be the top priority. Visit a doctor or a hospital as soon as possible to obtain the treatment you need. Document your medical treatment and keep copies of prescriptions, diagnoses, and medical bills. All of these will be used to prove the extent of damage you sustained because of the accident.

File an Incident Report

Create an incident report addressed to McDonald’s. This should detail the circumstances leading to the injury. Stick to the facts during your narration. 

This report serves as an official record of the incident and can help establish the timeline of events. You can hand the letter personally to a manager in McDonalds, or you can have it sent through registered mail. If you’re handing it personally, make sure you print a second copy to be signed by the manager as proof of receipt.

Consulting with an Attorney

To navigate the complex process of suing McDonald’s, consult a personal injury attorney who can advise you on the best course of action. They can assess the merits of the case, explain your rights, and provide representation. Consult with several attorneys if possible, giving you a chance to assess your options and get a bigger picture of the lawsuit before committing yourself to any legal professional.

Gathering Evidence

Gathering evidence can be the time-consuming part. Your attorney will guide you in collecting information to support your claim. This can include the following: 

  • Surveillance footage of the incident, if available
  • Photographs of the accident scene, including the hazardous conditions like the wet floor
  • Witness statements from employees or other customers who witnessed the event
  • Documents relating to injuries like medical bills, treatment records, and diagnosis of your attending physician
  • Any other relevant evidence that can help your case

Filing a Complaint

File a formal complaint against McDonald’s with the help of your attorney. This legal document, filed with a local Civil Court, is essentially a narration of your allegations, containing the facts leading to the incident and the legal basis of your claim. It will also include your demand for damages and all the pieces of evidence you gathered to support your claim.

The Court will serve it to the defendant, in this case, McDonald’s. You will need to wait a certain period for McDonald’s to answer your complaint. Once an answer has been filed, this is when the legal process officially starts.

Here’s what to expect throughout the process. 

Discovery Stage

Discovery occurs when both parties ask for additional information from each other about the case. During this time, each party will answer questions that may arise. 

A good example is Choto versus Dorothy Inc., a McDonald’s franchise based in California, where the defendant admitted negligence in keeping their surroundings safe. However, while they admitted their negligence, they disputed the actual settlement amount. 

Hence, in such a case, since the negligence is already admitted, you don’t have to present evidence of negligence anymore, but you have to present evidence supporting the claim amount. Your lawyer should be able to help you through the process. 

McDonald’s Lawsuit Conclusion

Up until this point, there’s a chance for the restaurant to settle. Mediation can happen when your lawyer and the restaurant’s representative try to work things out together. The hope is to settle at this stage so that both parties can walk away happily and with fewer expenses. Any settlement reached during the mediation stage is legally binding.

Of course, if the restaurant chooses to proceed to trial, then the process becomes more time-consuming. A full-blown trial involves a judge and, sometimes, a jury, and you will be required to produce and prove your allegations on the complaint. 

This may necessitate thousands of dollars in expenses, with the losing party being ordered to pay an amount determined by the judge. Note that at any time before judgment, the parties can enter into a settlement and pre-terminate the trial.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a legal principle that’s considered with each case filed. This is essentially the amount of time between the accident or incident and the filing of the complaint. 

Once a specific time has passed between these two dates, you essentially lose your right to seek damages. Depending on your State, the statute of limitations can be anywhere from two to three years. 

Note that with time, the integrity of the evidence can decline, making it difficult to prove your case. This is why it’s important to file a complaint as soon as possible from the time of the incident and not wait for the deadline to expire or come close.

How Can I Sue McDonald’s for Food Poisoning?

Filing a lawsuit against McDonald’s for food poisoning is trickier than a slip-and-fall lawsuit. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, and with these steps, you should be able to successfully prove your case against any fast-food giant.

Common Pathogens in Food Poisoning Cases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common food-borne germs causing illnesses and hospitalization include E. ColiSalmonella, Norovirus, Campylobacter, and Staphylococcus Aureus. Around 24 to 81 million of these cases are reported annually, costing the United States as much as $17 billion in medical care.

E. Coli bacteria are commonly found in the intestines and feces of cattle, although studies have also observed them in pigs, goats, poultry, rabbits, and even horses. They can also survive in soil and water for long periods. 

Ingestion of E. Coli can lead to abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Healthy adults usually recover from the condition within 10 days, even without treatment. However, seniors, children, and the immunocompromised may develop complications necessitating intensive care.

Roughly 13.5 million infections occur because of Salmonella, with food as the primary source of the infection. Symptoms of an infection can occur as early as six hours from ingestion and can last up to seven days. Recovery is possible even without treatment, but antibiotics are usually prescribed. Common signs of the infection include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and fever.

Establishing the Link Between Food and Illness

Once you suspect that McDonald’s is responsible for the food poisoning, the next step is establishing a clear link between the food and the illness. Here’s how to go about this:

Get Medical Help

Get medical help as soon as you experience symptoms of food poisoning. A healthcare professional can diagnose the condition and offer treatment.

Document Your Symptoms

Maintain detailed records of your symptoms, including when and how they started. Narrate the severity of the symptoms, their frequency, and any medical treatments or medications you received. 

It also helps to list what McDonald’s food you ate, the time you ate them, and the specific restaurant where you got them from. Place a date and time on this documentation as if you’re writing a diary. 

This will serve as strong evidence for your case since you recorded the events while your memory was fresh. It’s not uncommon for some lawyers to allege faulty memory to avoid settlement.

Gather and Preserve Evidence

Pinpointing McDonald’s food as the source of contamination can be tricky if all the evidence has been eaten or disposed of. As much as possible, however, you should preserve any remaining food, packaging, or receipts from the restaurant. These items can undergo analysis for potential contaminants, providing proof of the source of the illness. 

Contact Health Authorities

Report your illness to local health authorities. They may investigate and trace any outbreaks or incidents related to the restaurant, which can help strengthen your case.

How to Sue McDonald’s for Food Poisoning

To build a successful lawsuit against McDonald’s, you must establish the following grounds:


This means you should be able to show that the restaurant failed to exercise reasonable care in preparing and serving the food, leading to the contamination. This usually covers the storage, sanitation, and handling stage of the food before it reaches your plate.

Breach of Warranty

If the restaurant provided a specific guarantee about the quality and safety of their food, you may have a strong case if they breach this guarantee.

Product Liability

This refers to a situation where a particular food item or ingredient was inherently dangerous or defective, causing food poisoning or other related dangers to the consumer. 

Steps for a Food Poisoning Lawsuit 

The steps for suing McDonald’s based on food poisoning are more or less the same as those mentioned above in this article. The critical difference goes into proving that the McDonald’s meal caused your illness. This goes into the evidence stage, where you gather and analyze any receipts, food packaging, or remaining food you have with you.

Food poisoning lawsuits are best addressed through a class action. This occurs when multiple people suffer from food poisoning, which means there will be several complainants in the case. The number of complainants helps determine the potential settlement. 

How to Sue McDonald’s and Win? A Summary

Suing McDonald’s and winning a personal injury lawsuit is possible, but it requires careful planning, legal expertise, and a strong case built on convincing evidence. If you’ve suffered from any of the injuries mentioned above, consult a qualified attorney immediately to help you navigate the legal system. Remember that every case is unique, so seeking professional legal advice is critical to maximize your chances of success.

Written by
Serah Waweru

A graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Serah Waweru is a personal injury and immigration attorney based in Tacoma, Washington. Her law firm serves clients in Washington and all over the United States. Serah has always been passionate about the law; she served as the Vice President of the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Student Bar Association and vice president of the university's Black Law Students Association. Attorney Serah Waweru is also a proud member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Washington State Bar Association.

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