Scalding Chicken McNugget Results in $800,000 in Damages

McDonald’s pointed out that food safety rules require the nuggets be hot enough to avoid salmonella.

July 21, 2023

An incident with a scalding chicken nugget from a Ft. Lauderdale McDonald’s in 2019 left a four-year-old girl with burns on her legs. The family was seeking $15 million in damages, but after deliberation from the jury, it was awarded $400,000 for damages over the past four years and another $400,000 for the future from McDonald’s USA and its franchise operator, Upchurch Foods.

McDonald’s lawyers argued that the child does not have any lasting effects from the injury, apart from a scar on her thigh that she refers to as “nugget,” which her mother claims she wants removed. According to AP News, defense attorney Jennifer Miller said in her closing argument Wednesday: “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. She’s not bothered by the injury. This is all the mom.”

The mother, Philana Holmes, testified that the fast food chain did not warn her about the food’s temperature, which she felt was hotter than usual. The injury occurred after a nugget became lodged between a seat belt and the girl’s leg. In its testimony, McDonald’s assured that it followed food safety rules, which require McNuggets to be hot enough to avoid salmonella poisoning and argued that once the food leaves the store, it’s out of the company’s hands.

In a highly publicized case, McDonald’s was sued in 1994 by a 79-year-old woman who burned herself slipping hot coffee. The case ultimately was settled out of court after the original verdict was in favor of the plaintiff and McDonald’s appealed.

Are your foodservice operations following guidelines and protocols to protect your customers and employees? Register today for the Food Safety Forum at the NACS Show October 3-6 in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.