A South Florida jury has awarded $800,000 in damages to a little girl who received second-degree burns when a hot Chicken McNugget fell on her leg as her mother walked away from the drive-thru of a McDonald’s restaurant.
Lawyers for the family of Olivia Caraballo, who was 4 years old when she was set on fire in 2019, are seeking $15 million in damages. Jurors reached their verdict after deliberating for less than two hours on Wednesday, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
The jury verdict form allocated $400,000 in damages over the past four years, and another $400,000 for the future from McDonald’s USA and its franchise operator, Upchurch Foods. A separate jury ruled in May that the company and franchise owner were liable for the damage, which occurred outside a McDonald’s in Tamarac, near Fort Lauderdale.
“I’m just glad they listened to Olivia’s voice and the jury decided on a fair verdict,” Olivia’s mother, Philana Holmes, told reporters outside court. “I’m happy about that. I honestly had no expectations, so it was more than fair to me. “
She testified Tuesday that Olivia, now 8, called the scar on her inner thigh her “nugget” and insisted on having it removed, the newspaper reported.
McDonald’s lawyers argued that the child’s discomfort ended when the wound healed, which they said took about three weeks. They argued that the girl’s mother was the one with the scar problem, and told jurors that $156,000 should cover damages, past and future.
“He still goes to McDonalds, he still asks to go to McDonald’s, he still drives to the drive-thru with his mom, gets chicken nuggets,” defense attorney Jennifer Miller said in her closing argument Wednesday. “He is not bothered by the injury. It’s all mother. “
Defense attorneys declined to speak after the verdict.
Holmes testified that he was buying Happy Meals for his son and daughter, who were sitting in the back seat, and was driving away when the nugget fell on the child’s leg. He said the woman screamed in pain, and when he pulled into a parking lot, he realized the nugget was lodged between Oliva’s thigh and the seat belt.
The mother testified that at any time McDonald’s warned her that the food would be unusually hot. The company has confirmed that they follow food safety rules, which require McNuggets to be hot to prevent salmonella poisoning, and what happens to the food once it leaves the drive-thru window is beyond their control.
While both sides agreed during the trial in May that the nugget caused the burns, the family’s lawyers argued that the temperature was more than 200 degrees (93 Celsius), while the defense said it did not exceed 160 degrees (71 Celsius).
Photos taken by the mother of the burn and sound clips of the child’s screams were played in court.
The case may evoke memories of the McDonald’s coffee case in the 1990s, which became an urban legend of sorts about seemingly trivial cases, even though a jury and judge found it to be anything but.
A New Mexico jury awarded Stella Liebeck, 81, $2.7 million in punitive damages after she was scalded in 1992 by hot coffee from McDonald’s that spilled onto her lap, burning her legs, groin and buttocks, as she tried to hold the cup with her legs while reaching for the lid to add cream outside the drive-thru.
He suffered third degree burns and spent more than a week in the hospital.
He initially asked McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover hospital expenses, but the company went to trial. A judge later reduced the $2.7 million award to $480,000, which he said was appropriate for McDonald’s “willful, wanton, reckless” and “reckless” behavior.
Photo: Surveillance video of Philana Holmes arriving with two Happy Meals at the drive-thru. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
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