Ask The Legal Expert: Should facilities sue low-performing foodservice suppliers?

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Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Q: We have an outside food management company and lately, frankly, they've done a lousy job. We're thinking about suing them — good idea or bad idea? What if a resident suspects food poisoning?

A: Suing is probably a bad idea, and likely unnecessary. You should first examine any contract you might have with the outside food management company and determine: 1) whether there is a defined time period that obligates you to do business with them; and 2) whether and under what circumstances you may terminate the contract. The easiest way to terminate your relationship will be to do so in accordance with the contract terms. 

If you are unable to negotiate with the outside food company within the terms of the contract, you may consider simply terminating the contract and take the risk that the food company will not sue you for breaching the contract.
 
There is not much upside to bringing suit against the food company for several reasons. First, it will probably be unnecessary, given the fact that you will likely be able to simply terminate the contract. Second, you really have suffered any damages. Even if the food has made some of the residents ill, you would first have to PROVE the food made them ill, which can be very difficult to do and you would have to PROVE how making your residents ill has damaged you. But even those damages would appear to be nominal.

Fortunately, most people do not sue for food poisoning, unless it causes significant harm or if several people are impacted.

Usually, these types of disputes can be resolved without litigation. However, if they sue you, you would likely have recourse against the food company and potentially their suppliers. Bottom line? Get a new food company.

Please send your legal questions to John Durso at ltcnews@mcknights.com.

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