Woman awarded £250,000 after restaurant food poisoning

Mrs Rae ate at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Leith. Picture: Google
Mrs Rae ate at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Leith. Picture: Google
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A woman who was stricken with food poisoning after an Edinburgh restaurant meal that led to life-changing consequences has been awarded more than £250,000 damages.

Tracey Rae was hit by by the campylobacter bug after she ate a warm chicken liver and beetroot salad during an evening out with her husband and friends at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s restaurant in St Giles Street, Leith, in 2009. The infection has led to irritable bowel syndrome and made her intolerant to certain foods.

There is no treatment for her condition. All she can do is to try and minimise her symptoms. At home she has to make one meal for herself and a separate meal for her family.

She sued James Freeman, trading as Saffron Private Catering, with a place of business in Berwick Upon Tweed, who was in charge of catering at the restaurant at the time for compensation. Liability in the action was admitted, but jurors had to assess the level of damages.

After a week of evidence and submissions they awarded Mrs Rae in excess of £263,000, including £175,000 for future loss of earnings and employability and £50,000 for pain and suffering.

The jury also decided that she should receive more than £30,000 for past and future cost of food and dietary supplements.

The court heard she had gone out for an evening with her husband and two other couples to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society as one couple were members of the society.

“We had a nice meal and got the train back home,” she said.

She said she had felt fine the following day and went to bed that night thinking she was a bit tired and out of sorts but woke up the next morning feeling ill.

She told the court that prior to giving evidence she had a banana the previous morning and had nothing since apart from medication and water.

The mother-of-two said she now had a gluten and dairy free diet and added: “I can’t have any alcohol and I can’t have any caffeine.”

Mrs Rae said she had experienced pain and other continuing problems, including with her bowels. She added: “I am far more anxious than I was before.”

“The children probably missed out on quite a lot. I was reluctant to go on holidays,” she told the court.

“We didn’t go out for meals and things because I found it quite stressful,” she said

Her junior counsel Dana Forbes told jurors Mrs Rae’s life changed dramatically.

She said that after six months later she was diagnosed with post-infection irritable bowel syndrome and added: “It is likely to be permanent as are its symptoms.”

“She now has intolerance to certain foods and has to follow a restricted diet,” she said.

Ms Forbes said: “There is no treatment for her condition. All she can do is to try and minimise her symptoms.”

“At home she has to make one meal for herself and a separate meal for her family,” she said.

She said that Mrs Rae, 44, of Reddingmuirhead, Falkirk, in Stirlingshire, no longer went to friends’ homes as often as previously and that while going to restaurants was once fun and enjoyable it has now become “complicated and stressful”.

She said she could no longer go on holidays camping and cycling with her family.

The counsel said that Mrs Rae, who worked part-time as an adult literacy tutor, had planned to return to full-time work when her younger daughter started secondary school but that had not been possible because of the effect of her symptoms.

Ms Forbes told jurors that they would hear that following a dairy and gluten free diet cost considerably more.

In the written pleadings in the action it was said that it was “notorious” in the food preparation and catering trade that Campylobacter bacteria were endemic in poultry and particularly chicken and that unless they are destroyed before human consumption are likely to cause stomach and bowel problems which can be severe and long-lasting.