Jul 21, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
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Brady Knox, Breaking News Reporter

NextImg:Fast-food fears: Four times grab-and-go restaurants sent someone to the hospital — or worse

Two families are suing Panera in connection to two deaths allegedly brought on by a beverage at the establishment.

However, this isn't the first time a fast-food restaurant has faced legal scrutiny over problems related to its food.


Here are four times that problems at fast-food restaurants led to hospitalizations or worse.


In 2015, 52 people across nine states were hospitalized with excruciating symptoms, Bloomberg reported. The common factor between them was quickly identified as having eaten at Chipotle, a Mexican fast-food joint. One of the ingredients was found to have been infected with E. coli.

Though this became the most well-known outbreak from Chipotle, it was one of several the restaurant chain experienced from 2015 to 2018. Across these three years, 1,100 experienced foodborne illnesses from eating at Chipotle, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

In 2020, Chipotle agreed to pay a $25 million fine in connection with the cases, the single largest fine in a food safety case. In a deferred prosecution agreement, the company admitted to its fault in the health incidents and promised improvements.

“From approximately 2015 to 2018, Chipotle faced at least five food safety incidents at various restaurants around the country, which stemmed primarily from store-level employees’ failure to follow Chipotle’s food safety policies and procedures, including the policy requiring the exclusion of restaurant employees who were sick or recently had been sick, as well as a failure by restaurant employees to hold food at appropriate temperatures to prevent and control for the growth of foodborne pathogens," Chipotle admitted in the deferred prosecution agreement.

Wendy's burger

Earlier this year, a Louisiana couple sued Wendy's after a double cheeseburger gave the wife, Jena Vogt, several severe health problems. Within 24 hours of eating the burger, she began to feel excruciating pain.

Upon going to the hospital, Vogt was diagnosed with “E.coli, acute GI bleeding, septic shock, cerebral hemorrhage and severe sepsis,” the complaint read, according to the Sun Herald.

Vogt had to remain in the intensive care unit for over a month due to "several serious medical conditions," which left her with some long-term health problems. Her husband has needed to become her primary caregiver.

The couple blamed the incident on "poor handwashing procedures" and is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

McDonald's hot coffee

In one of the United States's most famous tort cases, an elderly woman sued McDonald's after getting burnt from a cup of coffee that spilled in her lap.

In 1992, Stella Liebeck, then 79, ordered a cup of coffee from McDonald's at the drive-through and placed it between her knees. After her grandson parked the car, she went to remove the lid to add cream and sugar. The drink spilled on her lap, causing extensive burns that sent her into shock, and she went to the hospital. She experienced burns over 16% of her body, of which 6% were third-degree burns. The burns on her inner thighs and genitals were so severe she needed skin grafts, leading to hospitalization for more than a week and a recovery period of over two years, according to the American Museum of Tort Law.

Liebeck reached out to McDonald's to help pay for her five-digit medical bills, but it only offered $800. She then sued the restaurant and won after showing that the chain had ignored other burnings from its coffee and after an expert testified that the abnormally high temperature of the coffee could cause third-degree burns in only three seconds.

Liebeck eventually settled out of court for less than $500,000, but the main legacy of the case was the media whirlwind around it. As the story spread, the details became confused and increasingly portrayed the elderly Liebeck as a scheming con artist who plotted the event to gain a quick buck. Many outlets caught on to the $2.7 million figure floated by the judge in the case as the final payout, adding to the seeming absurdity of the case. The narrative that grew out of the event became a punch line for talk show hosts and comedy shows, including Seinfeld.

Despite the reputational damage to Liebeck, the episode resulted in McDonald's slightly decreasing its standard coffee temperature.

Frugals milkshake deaths

In the most serious example on the list, three people were killed and three hospitalized after a listeria outbreak at a Washington Frugals location. The outbreak was due to the ice cream machines not being cleaned properly, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Everyone who died or was hospitalized had a prior condition that weakened their immune system.


In a statement obtained by King 5 News, Frugals said it was "deeply saddened to learn the Washington State Department of Health is reporting six people were hospitalized with foodborne listeriosis and three people later died. We are heartbroken and deeply regret any harm our actions could have caused."

The widow of one of the victims sued the chain for damages, a lawsuit that continues.