A Florida jury on Wednesday ordered a 7-year-old girl who suffered second-degree burns after a Chicken McNugget fell on her thigh to award $800,000 in damages for causing pain and emotional distress.
The burns occurred in 2019 when she was four when she visited McDonald’s, and the lawsuit is a high-profile and successful lawsuit against a fast food chain by a woman who was burned by hot coffee more than 30 years ago. to be compared.
A Broward County jury ordered girl Olivia Caravallo to pay damages for pain, suffering and other emotional distress, according to court documents. She was sentenced to pay $400,000 for the pain she endured and another $400,000 for future suffering from her injury. The family’s lawyers were demanding $15 million.
The lawsuit, filed in state court by Olivia’s parents, Filana Holmes and Humberto Caraballo Estevez, against McDonald’s and Upchurch Foods, a franchise company in Tamarac, Fla., was filed in May. Another jury found both companies liable for failing to provide reasonable evidence. For example, there are instructions and warnings on the packaging about the injury hazards that can be caused by eating Chicken McNuggets with chicken whites.
As of Thursday, it was not clear whether lawyers for McDonald’s and Upchurch Foods would appeal the decision. Lawyers for McDonald’s declined to comment. Lawyers for Upchurch Foods did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Florida law allows 15 days to seek retrial and 30 days to appeal.
The family’s lead attorney, Jordan LeDavid, said the jury’s decision amounted to “full justice” for Olivia.
“Defendants have argued for years that we have no lawsuit and no liability,” LeDavid said. He added that the damages awarded far exceeded the $156,000 McDonald’s lawyers had proposed to the jury in his closing remarks.
In August 2019, Holmes ordered a six-piece Happy Meal of Chicken McNuggets for Olivia at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Tamarack, a city northwest of Fort Martin. Lauderdale, Florida. After handing the nugget to her daughter in the back seat, part of it fell onto Olivia’s lap, leaving a “deformation and scar” on her thigh, according to the first lawsuit.
Holmes said in a phone interview Thursday that she was “satisfied with the verdict” and glad the jury considered her daughter’s distress.
“I just wanted to hear Olivia’s voice,” Holmes said.
The court will oversee the disbursement of funds awarded to the child, possibly through a court-appointed guardian who will propose how the funds will be distributed, Ledavid said. He added that the funds would likely remain in an investment account until Olivia reached adulthood.
The lawsuit was compared to a high-profile lawsuit, also involving McDonald’s, by a woman who was burned by fast-food coffee. In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled her morning beer on her lap at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque and suffered severe burns.
Liebeck’s lawsuit was initially awarded $2.9 million in damages. Ryan Caro, a tort law professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said the McDonald’s case had become synonymous with litigation overreach.
Professor Caro said the hot coffee lawsuit was comparable to a typical tort law lawsuit, as court proceedings revealed that the company had typically served its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees, making public debate less likely. said there were more benefits than allowed. Plaintiffs were held partially responsible by the jury, but still had some success in changing the sprawling giant’s practices, he said. A judge then reduced Riebeck’s award to about $640,000, adding that he found that to be a more commensurate figure.
LeDavid acknowledged that the two McDonald’s incidents appeared similar at first glance, including burns to customers, burns and large payments from McDonald’s. But things were different, he said. Critics of Mr. Liebeck said Mr. Liebeck should have known the coffee was hot. But it was hard to find fault with Olivia, a 4-year-old girl who couldn’t anticipate how spicy the Chicken McNuggets would be.
“This is not the infamous hot coffee case.
Since the 1992 incident, McDonald’s and many other coffee shops have resorted to large labels on their products with more direct warnings.
McDonald’s currently does not provide warning labels when it comes to Chicken McNuggets.
Holmes hopes so. “Hopefully, McDonald’s will change their Happy Meal boxes now to add labels or warnings to indicate that the food inside came from the fryer.”