Young girl awarded $800K after severe Chicken McNugget burn – National

Young girl awarded $800K after severe Chicken McNugget burn – National

A Florida jury has awarded US$800,000 (CA$1.05 million) in damages to a young girl who was severely burned by a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget.

Olivia Carabello was just four years old when she suffered second-degree burns after a hot Chicken McNugget fell on her leg as her mother pulled away from the drive-thru of a South Florida location of the fast food chain in 2019.

In May, 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.

She said she passed a bag of fast food to her children in the backseat and while driving away her daughter began screaming. Holmes pulled into a nearby parking lot and that’s when she discovered the burn, caused when a piece of chicken fell from the bag.

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The suit alleged the “unreasonably and dangerously hot” nugget caused the girl’s skin and flesh around her thighs to burn when it became lodged between the girl’s car seat and her leg.

Philana Holmes and her daughter 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

A separate jury in May decided that McDonald’s and franchise owner Upchurch Foods were at fault for the burns. At the time, the jury heard two days of testimony and arguments, including audio of Carabello’s screams, which were captured when her mom pulled over to take photos and video of the incident.

Jurors on Wednesday deliberated for less than two hours before returning their verdict, reports the South Florida SunSentinel.

The jury’s verdict form allotted US$400,000 in damages for the past four years, and another US$400,000 for the future from McDonald’s USA and its franchise operator, Upchurch Foods. Laywers for the girl’s family had been seeking US$15 million.

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“I’m actually just happy that they listened to Olivia’s voice and the jury was able to decide a fair judgment,” Holmes told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. “I’m happy with that. I honestly had no expectations, so this is more than fair for me.”

She testified this week that her daughter, now eight, calls the scar on her inner thigh her “nugget” and is fixated on having it removed, the newspaper reported.

Philana Holmes during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale in May.

Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The case is reminiscent of the famous hot coffee lawsuit in 1992 that captured headlines around the world.

In that suit, 81-year-old Stella Liebeck was awarded US$2.7 million in punitive damages after she was scalded by a hot McDonald’s coffee that spilled onto her lap while she tried to steady the cup with her legs while removing the lid outside a New Mexico drive-thru.

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The coffee caused third-degree burns to her groin, legs and buttocks and she spent more than a week in hospital.

She had 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 the “willful, wanton, reckless” and “callous” behaviour by McDonald’s.

— With files from The Associated Press

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