Jury awards $800K to South Florida girl burned by Chicken McNugget

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A South Florida jury on Wednesday awarded $800,000 to a Florida girl who received second-degree burns from a Chicken McNugget four years ago.

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The jury in Broward County deliberated less than two hours before deciding that McDonald’s and a franchise owner must pay $400,000 in damages to cover 8-year-old Olivia Caraballo for the past four years and $400,000 for her future, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Attorneys for the girl and her parents, Philana Holmes and Humberto Caraballo Esteves, had sought $15 million in damages after the then-4-year-old child was scalded on the leg after receiving a Happy Meal. The incident occurred at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Tamarac in September 2019, the newspaper reported. Attorneys for the restaurant, Upchurch Foods, and the parent company of the fast-food giant, McDonald’s USA, told jurors on Tuesday that the injuries suffered by the girl healed in three weeks.

“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.”

“This is a verdict for all time,” John Fischer, an attorney for the family, said in his closing argument Wednesday, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “When we walk out of those doors, that’s it. We don’t get to come back and say let’s check on Olivia in five years, let’s check on her in 10 years … you have to do it now or you can never do it again.”

Attorneys for McDonald’s contended that the girl’s discomfort ended when the wound healed, adding that $156,000 should cover her past and future, according to the newspaper.

“She’s still going to McDonald’s, she still asks to go to McDonald’s, she’s still driving through the drive-through with her mom, getting chicken nuggets,” defense attorney Jennifer Miller said in her closing argument. “She’s not bothered by the injury. This is all the mom.”

In May, a separate jury determined that Upchurch Foods, Inc. and McDonald’s USA were to blame for the child’s injury.

According to the lawsuit, Holmes went to the McDonald’s drive-thru in Tamarac on Aug. 21, 2019, and ordered a six-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal for her daughter, WPLG-TV reported.

According to Holmes’ pretrial deposition, the child had dropped a nugget on her lap, which became stuck between her thigh and the vehicle’s seat belt, the television station reported.

The food remained lodged for about two minutes and left the girl “disfigured and scarred,” according to court documents. She allegedly suffered second-degree burns.

Neither side disputed that the nugget had caused the girl’s burns, according to the newspaper.

A plastic surgeon hired by defense attorneys said that the treatment for the girl’s burns, including a surgical “revision” of the scar, would cost $4,708, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Lawyers for McDonald’s declined to comment after the verdict, according to the newspaper. The company’s representative who appeared in court, Melina Hipskind, also declined comment.

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