When Is A Business Owner Responsible For A Customer's Allergic Reaction?

While modern medicine has made huge improvements, it seems like there are more types of allergies and more people with them than ever before. Any type of business owner should be aware of the possibility that a customer could have an allergic reaction to your product or your store itself. Here are some of the common risks and how to mitigate them.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are in large part avoidable by a customer because they should know what they can't eat. The real source of problems for business owners is either cross-contamination in the kitchen or chefs getting creative.

In the kitchen, good cleanliness practices can help reduce but not eliminate the risk of cross-contamination. Things like peanut dust can spread no matter what precautions are taken, so a disclaimer should be given to customers about potential allergens that they might not expect in their food.

A creative chef can also unintentionally cause harm. If they go with a new take on a dish, such as a sprinkling of nuts, be sure to include any unusual ingredients on the menu.


Soaps in restrooms, locker rooms, or hotel bathrooms can also be a source of severe allergic reactions. For public soap dispensers, always use an unscented standard commercial soap. Even if a customer has an allergy to a common soap, it's more likely that a court will find that you did nothing wrong if you use the same kind of soap all other businesses do.

For hotels and rental condos that want to provide luxury soaps, provide everything in the original wrapper, and make sure the other ingredients are clearly listed. You may also want to provide a nonallergenic option in the room or behind the front desk.


A shop cat or dog can make a business more welcoming for a lot of customers. Unfortunately, it can also make some almost deathly sick.

If you aren't in a business where pets are expected, like a pet store, precautions are needed. Be sure to perform regular deep cleanings, and post a sign on the front door that a pet is inside. Add an intercom or give a phone number so allergic customers can contact you. If your business is appointment based, alert first-time customers when they make an appointment and ask if they have allergies.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from liability or to get help defending a possible claim against you, talk to a local attorney like Minor, Bell & Neal today.