Can You Sue for an Allergic Reaction?

Published on Apr 23, 2024 at 7:57 pm in Medical Malpractice.

According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there are “tens of thousands” of individuals in the U.S. who suffer anaphylactic reactions, another way of referring to someone who experiences a severe sensitivity to an allergen every year.

This one factor results in 1 per every 3,000 inpatient hospitalizations. That same report outlines how anaphylaxis leads to anywhere from 500 to 1,000 annual fatalities in our country.

If you had the misfortune of suffering an unexpected response to an allergen, you might be curious if you can sue for an allergic reaction. We’ll tackle that question below.

What Are the Most Common Triggers for Anaphylaxis?

Before we answer the question as to whether you can sue if you suffer an allergic reaction, let’s discuss some of the items individuals most commonly have an adverse response to. Those are:

  • Food products like peanuts and tree nuts, eggs, gluten, and shellfish
  • Certain types of metals
  • Different types of medications, like penicillin, for example
  • Mold
  • Certain chemicals
  • Latex
  • Specific textiles (types of fabrics)

Also, insects, like bees and wasps, can cause someone to go into anaphylactic shock, although, unlike the other scenarios described above, pinning such an occurrence on someone else may prove challenging except under extenuating circumstances.

Filing a Lawsuit After Suffering an Adverse Reaction to an Allergen

The quick answer to the question posed above, “Can you sue for an allergic reaction?” is yes. You may have a valid reason to sue the person or entity that, unbeknownst to you, exposed you to a food, product, substance, etc., that you have an allergy to.

However, just as there are elements of negligence that must be proven in any other personal injury case, you have to meet those same standards in a case like this as well. Let us explain.

How To Prove Negligence in Allergic Reaction Cases

When most individuals think about the prospect of suing someone over an allergic reaction, they likely consider doing so after consuming food or taking a prescription drug that caused an unanticipated reaction. However, this may even be a viable option if someone has an unanticipated reaction to exposure to environmental allergens, such as mold, as well. Potentially liable parties and proving liability may vary from case to case. Let’s take some real-life examples into account, such as:

You Being Served Something You Were Allergic to at a Restaurant

Say you informed your waiter that you were allergic to a certain food ingredient. Whether they failed to tell the cook about this sensitivity or the kitchen staff didn’t heed the server’s warning, you may have a valid claim against the eatery if you can produce evidence that proves the following:

  • Your waiter or the cook was made aware of your allergy and failed to warn you of the potential for allergens
  • You suffered an allergic reaction that would not have occurred had it not been for being served a specific item

In a situation like the one above, you may be able to hold the restaurant accountable for either their waiter or cook’s failures that led to your exposure to the allergen.

The same logic applies if restaurant staff fail to take necessary precautions to minimize the chances of allergic exposure, which often occurs due to a restaurant mislabeling or cross-contaminating ingredients or failing to use specifically designated equipment, like pots and pans when preparing food for those with allergies.

Allergic Reactions to Over-the-Counter and Prescription Drugs

If you look on the back of the packaging of any health and beauty products or over-the-counter medications, you’ll see a “drug facts” table advising of ingredients and any warnings associated with them. Prescription medications come with their own listing of side effects and more detail is provided in the paperwork that comes alongside those drugs.

It’s plausible that you could sue a manufacturer of an over-the-counter product for failing to warn of the potentially deadly allergens their products contained. The same goes for prescription drugs, although in many cases, allergic reactions often stem from a nurse, pharmacist, or doctor failing to exercise a certain standard of care in some of the following ways:

  • When taking your health history and inquiring about your allergies (and then properly noting them)
  • Ensuring the drug combined with another one wouldn’t lead to an allergic reaction
  • Dispensing the wrong medication or filling the prescription with an incorrect drug (that you were allergic to)

It may also be possible to hold drug manufacturers liable if they:

  • Failed to warn you of potential contraindications associated with the use of their medication
  • Their actions (or lack thereof) led to cross-contamination that resulted in your allergic response

Allergies to Mold

Another scenario that figures into the discussion of adverse reactions to allergens is mold overgrowth.

It may be possible to hold a landlord, for example, liable for permitting such a situation to occur or if they didn’t fix it once they became aware of it (if it led to you suffering an allergic reaction).

Additionally, it may be possible to hold a remediation company liable if you can show that you contracted them to address the situation and they failed to do so properly, leading to your avoidable allergic reaction.

Holding the Party Who Caused You To Suffer an Allergic Reaction Accountable

Most individuals would say that they don’t want to be placed in a position where they have to take legal action against someone for their wrongdoing.

However, that’s, in part, why our Illinois civil legal system exists. It does so to give victims who suffered preventable harm due to the avoidable actions of others an ability to hold liable parties accountable when our state or federal laws don’t consider what happened a criminally punishable offense.

You’re taking time to pursue legal action against the party that hurt you, which deters others from potentially repeating the same actions. It also has the potential of compensating you for the losses, such as missed work and pay as well as medical bills, that you incurred. Gathering evidence to prove liability in allergic reaction cases like these can be challenging, which is where a personal injury lawyer can help.

Contact us at Prince Law Firm to discuss what caused you to suffer an anaphylactic response and the legal rights you may have to recover a monetary settlement in your case.



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