Legal Implications of Food Contamination: The Case of Adele's Illness and Its Impact on Income and Career


In the given scenario, the actions of the McGreedy’s restaurant have led to Adele becoming ‘violently’ ill. The incident led to her being hospitalised due to consuming contaminated food. This resulted in the loss of income due to Adele’s absence at her workplace and a possible loss of opportunity to work in a film. Considering these events, Adele has potential actions in negligence against the McGreedy’s restaurant, which are discussed in this essay. The essay also discusses the law of vicarious liability as the negligence was attributed to an employee (James) of the restaurant. In other words, if James was negligent, then as per the principles of vicarious liability, McGreedy’s will be liable to Adele.


Application of the Law of Contract to the Scenario

The law of negligence in the law of tort, seeks to provide remedy in three types of harm including: personal injury, damage to property and economic loss. The law of negligence is concerned with compensating individuals who have suffered injury and loss because of carelessness of other individuals. The case of Donoghue v Stevenson sets out three essential elements for such an action to take place also called as the neighbour test. These essential elements are: a duty of care, a breach of that duty of care by one party, and the breach causing negligence resulting in loss for another party. These are discussed at length below with specific reference to the given scenario.

First, one needs to establish whether James owed a duty of care to the claimant, Adele. Portrayed from the neighbour test laid down by Donoghue v Stevenson, the duty of care is established when the reasonable foresight of harm exists. From the perspective of a waiter and customer, restaurant’s duty of care includes not only following government laws and regulations, but also considering events that might foreseeably harm customers. As the waiter dropped the burger and still gave it to Adele, the waiter was in a position to foresee the harm of his action, therefore, he had a duty of care to Adele.

The next step is to ascertain whether James breached the duty of care. From the ruling of the reasonable person test in Blyth v Birmingham Waterworks Co, one must question whether defendant’s conduct fell below the reasonable standard of care. This is proved by the failure of James to not give the contaminated food to Adele, which any reasonable person would have foreseen to be negligent behaviour.

  • [1932] UKHL 100.
  • (1856) 11 Ex Ch 781.

The final stage is to consider causation, that is the direct link between the omission and the damage suffered. The ‘but for’ test explained by Lord Denning in Cork v Kirby MacLean, can be used here to show that James’ actions resulted in the injury and loss to Adele. Causation in law would regard the case as the damage as foreseeable, the contaminated burger would cause damage to any individual who consumes it.

The second defendant, that is, the restaurant McGreedy’s, is liable for injury to Adele. Based on the same grounds as seen in the case of the first defendant, it is seen that a duty of care exists from the restaurant to the customer, in this case Adele. McGreedy’s owed a duty of care to Adele as a customer. The restaurant McGreedys, is in a breach of the duty of care, as the injury is caused due to the contaminated burger given to Adele, therefore, it can be said that McGreedy’s violated the duty of care that a reasonable person would take. Causation can be proved by the ‘but for’ test in the case of Chester v Afshar , which portrays failure to act is a breach of duty, thus, a defendant owes a duty of care breach for a failure to act and prevent harm. Causation in law, in case of Jolley v Sutton London, shows that although the precise consequence of the negligent act may not have been foreseen, defendant would be held liable.

McGreedy’s could be held accountable for the actions of James, the waiter under the principle of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability results when the employee commits a tort in the course of employment. For this, the wrongful act must be authorised by the employer; and the employee must have conducted an unlawful and unauthorized mode of doing some act permitted by the employer.

  1. Home Office v Dorset Yacht, [1970] UKHL 2.
  2. J Steele, Tort Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014).
  3. [1952] 2 All ER 402.
  4. Liebeck v McDonalds restaurants [1994] ex lexis 23.
  5. Chester v Afshar [2004] UKHL 41
  6. Jolley v Sutton London [2000] 1 WLR 1082
  7. Limpus v London General Omnibus (1862) 1 H&C 526.
  8. M Lunney and K Oliphant, Tort Law: Text and Materials (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013) 838.

In Wilsons v Clyde Coal, it was held that the duty of the employer includes the provision of competent work staff. This was also held in Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing. Mcgreedy’s failed to provide supervision on the work been done by James, and therefore, Adele’s injury was due to the incompetence of the restaurant. Secondly, safety and maintenance protection in the restaurant should be carried out, whereas the evidence of the video footage of Mcgreedys restaurant portrays contamination and dirt, and a lack of care for health and safety. It is a duty of all employers to ensure reasonable health practices at work. This was violated by the Restaurant.

Adele can claim damages for the medical bills for her hospitalisation. The question is whether the defendant is liable for the economic loss to Adele, as she had a loss of profit from missing work; she can claim such damages. The case Spartan Steel v Martin allows the claimant a remedy to recover economic loss due to physical damage. A claimant will always be able to claim for consequential economic loss, but never for pure economic loss due to a negligent act. Adele could claim for the economic loss for missing time from work. XYZ v Portsmouth Hospitalsprovides that claimant cannot claim for loss of chance, therefore, Adele is unable to make a claim against the loss of an audition.

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Considering all events, Adele can make a claim against both James and the restaurant. Defendant James failed to perform a duty of care, and the restaurant failed to provide adequate health and safety norms, and the supervision which was expected of them resulting in breach of duty of care. Moreover, Mc Greedy’s is also liable under the principle of vicarious liability. In other words, Adele can sue both James as well as McGreedy’s for negligence. However, as per the principle of vicarious liability, it is advisable that Adele sues only the restaurant.

Continue your exploration of Legal Considerations in Employment Contracts with our related content.


  1. Wilson v Clyde Coal [1937] UKHL 2
  2. Hudson v Widge Manufacturing [1957] 2 QB 348
  3. Davies v New Merton Board Mills ltd [1959] 1 All ER 67
  4. Health and Safety Act 1974
  5. Poh Choo v Camden and Inslington Area Health Authority, [1979] 2 All ER 910.
  6. British Transport Company v Gourley, [1956] AC 185.
  7. Spartan Steel & Alloys Ltd v Martin & Co (Contractors) Ltd [1973] QB 27.
  8. XYZ v Portsmouth Hospitals NHS [2011] All ER (D) 152.
  • Lunney M and Oliphant K, Tort Law: Text and Materials (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2013)
  • Steele J, Tort Law: Text, Cases, and Materials (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014)

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