McDonald's Found Liable for Hot Chicken McNugget

It fell from a Happy Meal and burned a girl.

Philana Holmes and her daughter Olivia Caraballo, 7 listen to the final witness in their case at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday May 10, 2023.
Philana Holmes and her daughter Olivia Caraballo, 7 listen to the final witness in their case at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday May 10, 2023.
Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) โ€” McDonald's and a franchise holder are at fault after a hot Chicken McNugget from a Happy Meal fell on a little girl's leg and caused second-degree burns, a jury in South Florida has found.

A second jury will determine how much McDonald's USA and its franchise owner, Upchurch Foods, will pay the child and her mother, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.

Thursday's decision was split, with jurors finding the franchise holder liable for negligence and failure to warn customers about the risk of hot food, and McDonald's USA liable for failing to provide instructions for safe handling of the food. McDonald's USA was not found to be negligent, and the jury dismissed the argument that the product was defective.

"This was an unfortunate incident, but we respectfully disagree with the verdict," McDonald's USA said in a statement. "Our customers should continue to rely on McDonald's to follow policies and procedures for serving Chicken McNuggets safely."

The jury heard two days of testimony and arguments about the 2019 episode that left the 4-year-old girl with a burned upper thigh before finding McDonald's to blame.

Philana Holmes testified that she bought Happy Meals for her son and daughter at a drive-thru window at a McDonald's in Tamarac, near Fort Lauderdale, the SunSentinel reported. She said she handed the food to her children, who were in the back seat.

After she drove away, her daughter started screaming. The mother testified she didn't know what was wrong until she pulled over to help the girl, identified in court as Olivia, the newspaper reported. She saw the burn on the girl's leg and took photos on her iPhone, which included audio clips of the child's screams.

The sound of the girl's screams were played in court.

The child, who is autistic, did not testify, the newspaper reported.

Lawyers for McDonald's noted that the food had to be hot to avoid salmonella poisoning, and that the nuggets were not meant to be pressed between a seat belt and human flesh for more than two minutes.

The girl's parents sued, saying that McDonald's and the franchise owner failed to adequately train employees, failed to warn customers about the "dangerous" temperature of the food, and for cooking the food to a much higher temperature than necessary.

While both sides agreed the nugget caused the burns, the family's lawyers argued the temperature was above 200 degrees (93 Celsius), while the defense said it was no more than 160 degrees (71 Celsius).


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