A Florida jury has determined who is liable for a little girl who got burned by a McDonald’s chicken McNugget that her parents said was dangerously hot.
The jury seated in Fort Lauderdale said that both McDonald’s and the restaurant franchise owner were at fault, WTVJ reported.
Philana Holmes and Humberto Caraballo Esteves sued the company and franchisee Upchurch Foods, Incorporated, also known as Upchurch Management, after their 4-year-old daughter was burned on her leg by the hot McNugget in 2019.
A single piece of chicken had fallen after the family had gotten a Happy Meal through the drive-thru. The nugget became stuck between her seatbelt and leg for about two minutes, resulting in second-degree burns, WPLG reported.
When her daughter started screaming, Holmes said she pulled into a parking lot and noticed the burn on her daughter’s leg, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
The complaint was filed in Broward County court in September 2019, claiming that the nuggets were “unreasonably and dangerously” hot, WTVJ reported.
Photos of the child’s burns and the sounds of her screams were played in court, the newspaper reported.
McDonald’s and Upchurch Management said they were not at fault for the child’s injuries.
McDonald’s lawyers said the food was hot to prevent salmonella poisoning and that the food was to be eaten not stuck between a seatbelt and skin for more than two minutes, the Sun Sentinel reported.
The corporation’s attorneys said the food was no hotter than 160 degrees, but Holmes’ attorneys said it had to have been more than 200 degrees. Both the defense and the plaintiffs agreed that the nugget caused the girl’s burns, the newspaper reported.
But jurors disagreed.
The panel said that both companies were liable because the food did not have a warning.
McDonald’s, however, was found not negligent for causing the burns.
Both McDonald’s and Upchurch disagreed with the jury’s decisions.
McDonald’s said in a statement to WTVJ: “We take every complaint seriously and certainly those that involve the safety of our food and the experiences of our customers. Together with our franchisees, for nearly 70 years, we have consistently served customers safe, high-quality food using strict policies and procedures.”
The statement continued: “This was an unfortunate incident, but we respectfully disagree with the verdict. Our customers should continue to rely on McDonald’s to follow policies and procedures for serving Chicken McNuggets safely.”
Brent Upchurch, the owner of the franchise location at the heart of the lawsuit, said: “Our sympathies go out to this family for what occurred in this unfortunate incident, as we hold customer safety as one of our highest priorities. That’s why our restaurant follows strict rules in accordance with food safety best practices when it comes to cooking and serving our menu items, including Chicken McNuggets.”
Upchurch’s statement continued: “We are deeply disappointed with today’s verdict because the facts show that our restaurant in Tamarac, Florida did indeed follow those protocols when cooking and serving this Happy Meal. Our community here in South Florida should remain confident that we will continue serving safe and high-quality meals, just as we’ve done for more than 50 years at Upchurch Management restaurants.”
The family’s attorney said that the ruling was a “tremendous victory for a deserving family,” CBS News reported.
“They stayed patient and fought hard with us for multiple years against a wealthy corporation: a jury unanimously ruled in favor of our client,” Fischer Redavid PLLC said on Facebook.
The jury did not decide how much in damages the family would receive. But the family did sue for more than $15,000. A separate trial to set the payout is expected to happen later this year, WTVJ reported.