Mother suing hamburger giant after swallowing thumbtacks

…product-liability lawsuits have been relatively uncommon in Canada, unlike in the United States, where an estimated 70,000 are filed each year. "In the United States, it's not uncommon for a jury verdict to be really punishment for what they consider to be wrongful corporate actions," Morton said.

The Toronto Star
January 31, 2002

Mother suing hamburger giant after swallowing thumbtacks
Burger King denies incident happened in its restaurant
Tracey Tyler

Lorrie Molino's idea of having a hamburger her way didn't include two thumbtacks, so she's launched a whopper of a lawsuit against fast-food giant Burger King.

The Richmond Hill mother of two is suing the corporation for $7.7 million, alleging she suffered physical and mental injuries after swallowing two thumbtacks while eating a Whopper.

In a statement of claim filed in the Superior Court of Justice, Molino claims the incident happened last March 25, when she was visiting a Burger King outlet at 10909 Yonge St. with her two daughters.

After taking a couple of bites of her hamburger, she "felt a pain in her throat as if a hard and sharp object was passing through," the court document says.

Molino grabbed her children and drove to Southlake Regional Health Centre, formerly York County Hospital, in Newmarket, said her lawyer, Marcel Strigberger.

Initial medical tests turned up nothing, he said. But six days later, the first thumbtack revealed itself through normal digestive processes and three days after that, a doctor used a surgical scope to recover the second tack in what was a "painful" medical procedure, the statement of claim alleges.

Molino, who worked periodically as a cleaner before the alleged incident, is suing for negligence and breach of an implied warranty, saying her ability to work and enjoy life has been impaired by the incident. She now has flashbacks, phobias about fast-food restaurants and food generally, and loss of libido, the claim states.

Her lawsuit includes claims of $100,000 filed on behalf of each of her daughters, who are 13 and 8, for loss of their mother's care and companionship.

Molino contends in her lawsuit that Burger King of Canada Inc. was negligent by, among other things, failing to inspect the Whopper before selling it and failing to warn her of "the danger of foreign objects" in its products.

But Rob Doughty, vice-president of corporate communications at Burger King headquarters in Miami, said food inspectors examined the Yonge St. outlet and its handling procedures, and "found nothing that would make us think that this may have happened in our restaurant."

The inspectors visited May 29 after Molino complained to public health officials, he said.

There have been no other complaints of thumbtacks being found at any of Burger King's 11,000 restaurants or in any of the 1.7 billion Whoppers sold each year, Doughty said.

The company has repeatedly asked Molino and her lawyer to provide a receipt to prove she was in the restaurant and to let it see the thumbtacks, but they have refused, he said.

That's "standard procedure" in the United States and "we get a little suspicious, frankly, when that's denied," Doughty said, adding the corporation has been the target of food-tampering hoaxes in the past.

In her haste to get to the hospital, Molino didn't keep her receipt, Strigberger said, adding that his client isn't legally required to turn over evidence or prove anything.

The onus is on Burger King to prove it wasn't negligent, he contends, saying the precedent was set in a 1941 case involving an 11-year-old Toronto girl, Irene Arendale, who cut her mouth eating a slice of bread that contained tiny glass fragments.

Since that time, product-liability lawsuits have been relatively uncommon in Canada, unlike in the United States, where an estimated 70,000 are filed each year.

"These type of claims are much rarer in Canada," said James Morton, chair of the Ontario Bar Association's civil litigation section.

The reasons have to do with differences in how juries function, how lawyers get paid and a cap of about $255,000 on the damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering.

"In the United States, it's not uncommon for a jury verdict to be really punishment for what they consider to be wrongful corporate actions," Morton said.

"In Canada, what juries are assessing is not really a punishment figure. It's really a calculation of the actual losses suffered by the individual."


Brought to you by WikidFranchise.org

Risks: Food tampering, Canada, 20020131 Mother suing

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License