A former Schenectady woman has been awarded $205,000 in damages after a jury found she was injured by food purchased at a local Burger King in 2009 that was tainted with a cleaning chemical, according to her attorney and court documents.
The jury’s verdict earlier this month found against the Burger King franchise owner. The jury determined that Patricia Herbenson was injured as a result of taking a bite of a mozzarella stick she ordered at the Erie Boulevard Burger King on May 25, 2009.
The mozzarella stick was found to be contaminated with a degreaser solution used by the restaurant, her attorney, Larry Breslow, said.
She took one bite of the stick and immediately felt burning in her mouth, Breslow said. She drove the short way back to the restaurant and called 911. She was treated at Ellis Hospital.
She suffered blistering and scarring on her tongue as a result. She also has sensation issues, Breslow said. Acidic foods bother her more, he said.
The state Supreme Court jury in Schenectady County awarded Herbenson, now 29, $100,000 for past pain and suffering and $105,000 for future pain and suffering.
The verdict was reached Aug. 4.
Breslow called the verdict a correct one.
“It spoke to the community’s refusal to accept the conduct of those that choose to violate safety rules,” he said in a statement. “Here, the safety rule violated involved keeping food away from cleaning chemicals.”
The verdict was against Carrols LLC, the owner of the Erie Boulevard Burger King franchise. The attorney who represented Carrols at trial could not be reached for comment Monday. A representative of Carrols also could not be reached.
Breslow said it was never determined how the degreaser got onto the mozzarella stick. But the mozzarella stick was preserved and an analysis was performed by the Department of Health. That analysis found the chemical on the mozzarella stick matched Burger King’s degreaser formula.
The jury formally found that the mozzarella stick was contaminated with degreaser when it was sold to Herbenson and that the degreaser was a substantial factor in causing her injuries, according to the verdict sheet filed in the case.
Breslow thanked the jury for rejecting the company’s contentions that there was no way for the degreaser to get on the food. Attorneys for the company also blamed a prior ailment for Herbenson’s injuries, Breslow said.
He said his client, who now lives in Troy, is happy with the verdict.
“I think she’s disappointed in the way the defendant behaved without accepting responsibility for what they had done,” Breslow, of the Poughkeepsie-based firm Rutberg Breslow, said Monday.
It was unclear if an appeal was planned. If one is filed, however, Breslow said he is confident the jury’s finding will be upheld.
The trial lasted six days and was held before Justice Vincent Reilly Jr.