Family Awarded $800K in Chicken McNugget Burn Suit

McDonald's, franchisee had already been found liable
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2023 7:00 AM CDT
Updated Jul 20, 2023 1:41 AM CDT
Jury Finds McDonald's Liable for Girl's Chicken Nugget Burn
Philana Holmes and daughter Olivia Caraballo, 7, are seen at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Wednesday.   (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
UPDATE Jul 20, 2023 1:41 AM CDT

A Broward County jury on Wednesday awarded the family of a girl who was burned by a Chicken McNugget from her McDonald's Happy Meal $800,000, CNN reports. That covers pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, with half of the award for the injuries already suffered when the girl, then 4, received the second-degree burns in 2019 and the other half for damages the jury thought would be sustained in years to come. "This momentous decision brings meaningful closure to an arduous and protracted legal process," the family's lawyer says. "Having previously established the defendants ... as liable for their wrongful actions, this verdict reaffirms that they must now face the consequences and provide full justice." The family had asked for $15 million, NBC 6 reports.

May 13, 2023 7:00 AM CDT

A little girl's Happy Meal was anything but after a Chicken McNugget fell onto her leg and burned her, and now McDonald's is being held accountable for it. The AP reports that a South Florida jury on Thursday determined that the fast-food giant and franchisee Upchurch Foods are to blame for the second-degree burns suffered by then-4-year-old Olivia Caraballo in August 2019. Per the Sun Sentinel, Philana Holmes testified during the trial that she purchased Happy Meals for both Olivia and Olivia's brother at a McDonald's drive-thru in Tamarac, and that she handed the packages back to the kids so they could eat as she drove. According to the lawsuit filed by Olivia's family, a super-hot chicken nugget fell during the drive and became wedged between Olivia's upper thigh and the seatbelt for two minutes.

Holmes testified that her daughter screamed, but that she wasn't sure why until she pulled over and saw the burn on Olivia's leg. The complaint notes that Olivia, now 7, was left "disfigured and scarred" from the incident, per Insider. McDonald's attorneys say it's necessary for the chicken nuggets to be kept hot to prevent salmonella poisoning, though they insisted the menu item couldn't have exceeded 160 degrees Fahrenheit; the lawsuit claims the nugget was more than 200 degrees, per the AP. The Broward County jury's decision was a split one, finding that franchisee Upchurch Foods was liable for negligence and for failure to warn customers about the risk of hot foods; McDonald's wasn't found to be negligent, but was found to be liable for failure to give instructions on how to handle hot food.

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"This is a critical first step for Olivia and her parents, who, for years, have had to deal with the ramifications of something that was—now unquestionably—foreseeable, avoidable, and should never have happened," the family's attorney tells Insider. McDonald's, for its part, says it disagrees with the verdict over the "unfortunate incident." "Together with our franchisees, for nearly 70 years, we have consistently served customers safe, high-quality food using strict policies and procedures," the chain said in a statement, per WPLG. A second jury will decide how much money McDonald's and Upchurch Foods will have to fork over for Olivia and her mom, per the Sun Sentinel. The suit seeks $15,000 in damages. (More McDonald's stories.)

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