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Restaurant Sanitation Requirements in Nevada

Restaurant Sanitation Requirements in Nevada
Restaurants and other places that sell food to consumers in Nevada are subject to a broad range of regulations designed to protect the public from illness and other problems. A customer who suffers a serious illness as a consequence of a restaurant’s failure to follow food regulations may have an ability to sue the restaurant to recover compensation for medical bills and other expenses related to the illness.

Scope of regulatory coverage

The Southern Nevada Health District adopts food and other health regulations that apply in Las Vegas and the rest of Clark County. The regulations apply to any “food establishment,” which is defined as “an operation at a particular location that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption.” The definition includes restaurants, catering services, and food markets. “Food” is defined to include raw, cooked, or processed edible substances, ice, beverages, or ingredients that can be used for human consumption. Establishments that fall within the definition of “food establishment” must hold a permit to sell food products to consumers. NRS 446.870. There are a range of exceptions to the definition of “food establishment,” including private homes, social clubs, religious and charitable establishments that serve food in occasional fundraisers (i.e., bake sales and pancake breakfasts). The Health District is also authorized to exempt establishments that it determines do not pose a hazard to public health.

What food establishments must do

Capturing the full scope of food safety regulations is naturally beyond the scope of this short introduction. But here are some examples that give a sense of the obligations that come with selling food to the public:
  • Many types of regulated food establishments must prepare a sanitation plan as part of their permitting process. Compliance with the approved plan is a central part of maintaining an establishment’s permit.
  • Equipment and surfaces that will come in contact with food must be kept “clean to sight and touch,” and must be regularly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Utensils that will be used to prepare food or by consumers must be kept sanitary according to the guidelines established by the American National Standards Institute.
  • Food must be properly labeled while in storage and offered to consumers in a way that does not mislead them about the contents, quality, or other details of the food.

Enforcement and private lawsuits

Food regulations are enforced by the Health District. Violations of food safety laws and regulations are misdemeanors—that is, they are subject to enforcement through the criminal justice system. In practice this means that a consumer on their own can’t sue a restaurant for regulatory violations. However, the violation of safety regulations can be a critical fact in a civil lawsuit. The fact that a regulation has been breached can be used by a consumer to show that the food establishment was negligent, a key component of recovering compensation. Such cases will require careful consideration of the available facts. For example, a plaintiff that seeks to prove that an establishment wasn’t complying with its sanitation obligations will need to prove that fact in court. The plaintiff will also need to show that the violation of regulations caused the plaintiff’s illness. A likely defense a restaurant will raise is that the illness may have been caused by something other than the restaurant’s inadequate sanitation.

Talk to an attorney about foodborne illness

The challenges of suing a restaurant for failing to follow good sanitation practices should not discourage an injured consumer from exploring legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases. If you have suffered a serious illness from a restaurant’s food, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Can A Restaurant Be Sued For Foodborne Illness?

Getting sick from eating restaurant food is never nice. In some situations a foodborne illness can be grave enough to involve high costs that might justify a lawsuit. The FDA estimates that foodborne illnesses in the United States result in about 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. When an illness leads to significant costs or even death, a lawsuit may be a necessary step to recover compensation.

Tracing the origin of foodborne illness

Determining the source of contamination is a central challenge in cases involving foodborne illness. Bacteria and viruses can be introduced into food at any point in its product lifecycle. Here are some examples:
  • Contaminated soil might stay on plants from farm to plate.
  • Improperly cleaned equipment could spread bacteria at a meat processing plant.
  • A sick restaurant worker could forget to wash his or her hands and spread illness.
For the injured plaintiff, the problem will be proving that the restaurant was the source of the disease. To cast doubt on the restaurant’s liability, the restaurant’s attorneys will undoubtedly scrutinize all the other potential ways the plaintiff may have been exposed to the cause of the disease. Evidence in these cases can be ephemeral, as the plaintiff’s leftovers are tossed into the garbage or composted.

Potential legal theories

Products liability is the most likely legal theory to arise in a foodborne illness case. In Nevada, responsibility for unsafe consumer products rests with every step in the product’s life cycle, from its original manufacturing to its storage and eventual sale. NRS 695E.090. In the case of food, this might include the farm where the food was raised, a processing facility, a warehousing company, a distributor, or the restaurant that prepared and served the food to the plaintiff. A products liability lawsuit often argues that the defendant was negligent by not exercising reasonable care to prevent the plaintiff’s illness. Examples of negligence might include not properly washing food, not cooking it thoroughly, or not inspecting food for problems. A restaurant that fails to require its employees to wash their hands and take other precautions might also be committing negligence. Strict products liability is an alternative to negligence. To prevail in a strict liability case, a plaintiff must establish, among other things, that the problem with the food was present at the time it left the defendant’s possession. Strict liability can be difficult to prove unless facts align in the plaintiff’s favor—perhaps other patrons also fell ill and can be identified, or the restaurant failed to comply with a manufacturer’s recall. In the most tragic cases, a plaintiff may also consider pursuing a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death is also based on negligence. It allows specific types of plaintiffs to seek specific types of damages on behalf of someone who has died as a consequence of the defendant’s negligence.

GGRM can help

For over 40 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients who have been injured recover the compensation they deserve. If you have been seriously harmed by foodborne illness and need help understanding your legal options, our attorneys are here to help. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our site.