ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nugget Trouble in Tennessee

McDonalds A Tennessee family is suing McDonald’s for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, negligence, and consumer protection violations for playing keep away with a chicken nugget.  The case is Howell v. McDonald's Food Corp.

This bizarre case began when father and son went to McDonald’s for dinner and the boy order a chicken nugget happy meal.  The 6-year old boy realized that last chicken nugget that looked “redish”  and refused to eat it.  The local McDonald’s offered a fresh chicken nugget- which the parents declined.  That might have been because when their child glimpsed the nugget, he made the sign of the cross and began reciting the lyrics to Beatles' albums backwards.  For some reason, the family preserved the crimson nugget.  Over the next couple days the child was sick with various stomach ailments, and the parents became concerned.  After notifying the local health department, they froze the suspect nugget until they could send it to a nugget testing facility.

NuggetsMcDonald's' insurer, Traveler’s Insurance, offered and the Howells agreed to send the nugget out for tests.  The family was assured that they would be notified of the results.  The nugget was sent for testing in November of last year.  In January, defendants notified the Howells that defendants would not share the test results.  Instead, the family received what remained of the nugget -- which was about 20% of the original nugget, now "ashy and charcoal-like" in appearance.

The Howells seek an order compelling McDonald’s to give them the results.  They also seek pain and suffering damages, punitive damages, and treble damages for the consumer protection claim.  The real damages to the family likely will not be known unless the court compels McDonald's to release the test results.  Assuming that the chickens that went into the nugget were not free-range Chernobyl hens, there's probably no reason to think that the Howell's son will face serious long-term effects not already foreseeable from having consumed food.purchased at a McDonald's.  One wonders what information defendants are trying to keep concealed.

[Katherine Freeman & JT]

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