September 18, 2020

Judge asked to review award in Big Mac case

ROCKLAND – A lawyer for the McDonald’s restaurant in Rockland has asked a judge to flip the verdict or trim the fat from a $25,000 award decided by a jury last month.

Richard Hendrick of Tenants Harbor won $25,000 from his Superior Court lawsuit, which claimed he suffered salmonella poisoning from a Big Mac he consumed in October 1994.

The court document filed Monday by lawyer Shaun Lister of Bangor for his client CGP Inc., which owned the Rockland McDonald’s franchise, claims that the jury in the case did not have evidence to support its verdict and was biased in its decision, prejudiced, improperly influenced or made a mistake of law or fact.

“It is obvious that the jury awarded such a high verdict because the defendant, CGP Inc, was associated with the name McDonald’s,” the motion stated. “The evidence did not support such a high verdict and it is apparent that the jury’s bias against a corporate defendant influenced its verdict.”

The document says the only evidence of damage was Hendrick’s medical expenses, which totaled $187.50 and that he was sick for two to three weeks.

“The plaintiff has apparently recovered and does not suffer much in the way of any residual effects as a result of the alleged food poisoning,” Lister wrote.

“The defendant had no lost time from work [as he was disabled at the time] and was sick for approximately 2-3 weeks,” according to the court document.

On Sept. 21, after hearing testimony from Hendrick that he suffered salmonella poisoning in October 1994 after eating a Big Mac sandwich, the jury deliberated for 27 minutes and awarded him $25,000 for breach of an implied warranty of merchantability.

During the trial, Dr. David Bradeen told the court that he could not link Hendrick’s poisoning to the Big Mac because he had no other reports that people who ate at the Rockland restaurant that day got sick and he had no food to test. Hendrick had purchased the special “Two Big Macs for Two Bucks,” ate one and tossed the other in his wood stove.

When contacted Wednesday, Lister said, “This is an attempt to resolve this dispute through the legal system.” If the motion were denied, the next legal course would be a Maine Supreme Judicial Court appeal.

Hendrick’s attorney, William Maselli of Auburn, said, “It’s standard procedure for a losing party” to file this type of motion.

“We expect to prevail,” he said.

The court document stated that “the plaintiff’s case was no better at trial than it was at the end of discovery. The plaintiff testified that he ate only the Big Mac on the day he became ill. Dr. Bradeen, the plaintiff’s expert, testified, just as he had at his deposition, that he could not relate the plaintiff’s salmonella to the Big Mac, without either testing the Big Mac or having evidence that other people who ate from the same food source were diagnosed with a proven illness, i.e. salmonella.

“The plaintiff produced no such evidence,” the document stated. “In fact, he defendant introduced evidence that 755 other Big Macs were sold the day the plaintiff claims he became sick and not one other person reported being sick. No evidence was presented that anyone else was diagnosed with salmonella.”

During opening arguments Maselli said the case was not about money. It was about accountability and responsibility, he said. In his closing remarks, he sought $50,000 for his client.

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