Florida family seeks $15M for 4-year-old girl burned by Chicken McNugget

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Arguments to determine the amount of a monetary award for the family of a 4-year-old girl who allegedly received second-degree burns from a Chicken McNugget are heating up.

>> Read more trending news

The family of the South Florida girl is seeking $15 million in damages after the child was scalded on the leg after receiving a Happy Meal from a McDonald’s drive-thru in September 2019, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Attorneys for the restaurant and the parent company of the fast-food giant told a Broward County jury on Tuesday that the child’s injuries healed in three weeks.

“There is only one Olivia Caraballo,” Jordan Redavid, the attorney for the girl’s parents, said in his opening statement. He was referring to the victim, who is now 8 years old, according to the newspaper. “There will only be one.”

The scar the nugget left on the girl’s inner thigh is “approximately the size of a nickel,” defense attorney Jennifer Miller said in her opening statement. A plastic surgeon estimated the cost of treating the injury was less than $5,000, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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

The lawsuit was originally filed by the girl’s parents, Philana Holmes and Humberto Caraballo Esteves, according to online court records. The case was heard in Broward County Circuit Court in May.

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.

According to defense attorney Scott Yount in the original trial, the McDonald’s restaurant in Tamarac was not to blame, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

“Chicken McNuggets are designed to be eaten, not to be pressed against the thigh of a 4-year-old girl for two minutes,” Yount said. “Ms. Holmes purchased 32 chicken McNuggets that day. The evidence will show (that for) 31 of them, there was no problem.”

Holmes contended in court records that at no point did McDonald’s employees warn her that the food might be unusually hot, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Holmes said she pulled into a parking lot while her daughter was screaming in pain. Noticing the burn on her daughter’s leg, Holmes took photographs. Sound clips of the child’s screams were played in the original trial and on Tuesday, according to the newspaper.

McDonald’s lawyers said the food was hot to prevent salmonella poisoning, the Sun Sentinel reported.

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.

Miller said the trial was about “fairness.”

“We’re not here to avoid any responsibility,” Miller said in her opening statement. “We’re here to ensure she is reasonably and fairly compensated under the law.”

Redavid told the jury that the child’s scar will serve as a lifetime reminder of her pain, according to the newspaper.

“The verdict we’re asking for is not $15 million for 15 minutes,” Redavid told the jury. “It’s 15 million for the rest of her life.”

The jury will hear testimony from a doctor testifying for the defense, and then both sides will deliver closing arguments, the Sun-Sentinel reported.