In closing arguments, a McDonald’s attorney told jurors that the family’s demands for damages had more to do with the mother’s mental state than the girl’s pain and suffering.
A Florida jury has awarded $800,000 in damages to the family of a 7-year-old girl who suffered second-degree burns after a hot Chicken McNugget fell on her thigh.
According to The New York Times, the incident happened in 2019, when the girl was 4 years old.
The case, adds the Times, immediately drew comparisons to a well-known—and ultimately successful—lawsuit against McDonald’s, filed by an elderly woman who was scalded and hospitalized by coffee that had been heated far beyond industry-standard recommendations.
In its decision, the Florida-based jury awarded 7-year-old Olivia Carballo damages for emotional pain and suffering and other types of mental anguish.
Of the $800,000, about $400,000 was estimated for existing pain, with the remaining amount awarded for anticipated damages.
The girl’s attorneys, note The New York Times, had initially asked for more than $15 million in damages.
In their lawsuit, the Carballo family said that McDonald’s should have included warnings on its Chicken McNuggets’ packaging indicating that the contents could be hot or pose risk of injury.
McDonald’s, however, insisted that it follows industry standards to prevent salmonella outbreaks, and that it should be liable for any injuries sustained by customers who have already left restaurant premises.
Additionally, attorneys for the fast food chain said that the Carballo family’s demands for compensatory damages were predicated on misleading statements about the 7-year-old girl’s emotional state.
The Associated Press notes that, in her closing arguments, McDonald’s defense attorney Jennifer Miller suggested that the family’s alleged damages were largely exaggerated—and that, while the 8-year-old victim was scarred by the hot McNugget, the child appears far less bothered by the injury than her adult mother.
“She’s still going to McDonald’s, she still asks to go to McDonald’s, she’s still driving through the drive-thru with her mom, getting chicken nuggets,” Miller told jurors in her closing argument. “She’s not bothered by the injury. This is all the mom.”
Attorneys for McDonald’s and Upchurch Foods, the franchisee that owns the Tamarac, Florida, restaurant that served Carballo the hot McNugget, have not yet indicated whether they will appeal the decision.
“We take every complaint seriously and certainly those that involve the safety of our food and the experiences of our customers. Together with our franchisees, for nearly 70 years, we have consistently served customers safe, high-quality food using strict policies and procedures,” McDonald’s said in a statement published earlier this year. “This was an unfortunate incident.”
However, Jordan Redavid—the lead attorney for the Carballo family—said that the jury’s decision amounts to “full justice” for his young client.
“For years, the defendants said we didn’t have a case and that they had no liability,” Redavid said.
“The awarded damages were much more than the $150,00 that lawyers for McDonald’s had proposed to the jury in their closing marks,” Redavid said, per the New York Times.
Philana Holmes, the girl’s mother, told reporters outside of the courtroom that she was simply happy that the jury listened to her daughter and awarded fair compensation.
“I’m actually just happy that they listened to Olivia’s voice and the jury was able to decide a fair judgment,” Holmes said. “I’m happy with that. I honestly had no expectations, so this is more than fair for me.”