July 4, 2005

Apology doesn’t totally compensate client – lawyer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The lawyer for a Louisiana woman whosaid she found a severed fingertip in her salad said on Mondaythat an apology from restaurant chain Applebee's InternationalInc. didn't "totally compensate" his client.

Restaurant chain Applebee's said a worker accidentally cutthe "very tip of his thumb" last year, an incident it says mayhave triggered a lawsuit from a Louisiana woman who said shefound a severed fingertip in her salad. Applebee's describedthe event as an "isolated incident" in a statement released onSaturday.

The company apologized to May Deal Chambers Johnson, whofiled the lawsuit last week.

Johnson's lawyer, Michael Darnell of New Orleans, toldReuters on Monday: "We appreciate the fact that Applebee's hasmade an apology, but that doesn't totally compensate my client(May Johnson) for the revolting experience she had and thetrauma she has sustained because of the incident. Additionally,the statement by Applebee's seems to make a case for a laxsupervision by the franchiser of this particular franchisee, inthat according to Applebees they apparently didn't discoverthat incident for at last a year later."

While Applebee's had said some facts are still unclear, itbelieves a former employee at one of its Louisiana franchiserestaurants had cut off part of his thumb. According to theworker, the cut was roughly the size of a sunflower seed,Applebee's said.

"We believe this was the incident that may have led to theclaim by Ms. Johnson," Applebee's said previously.

The company, based in Overland Park, Kansas, said itimmediately launched an investigation after it learned aboutthe lawsuit last Monday. Several members of its seniormanagement team traveled to Louisiana to look into the matter.

This was the second incident in the United States this yearinvolving a severed finger found in food bought at a nationalrestaurant chain.

A California woman drew national attention in March whenshe said she found a finger in a bowl of chili from a Wendy'sInternational Inc restaurant in San Jose, California.

The case was later found to be a hoax and the woman wasjailed on grand theft charges, but not before Wendy's suffereda steep drop in sales.

In the Louisiana case, Johnson said she suffered physicaland psychological harm when she discovered the object in atake-out salad from an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar inthe New Orleans suburb of Jefferson in June 2004.

Her lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses therestaurant of unsanitary food preparation and improper trainingof employees, as well as "failure to prevent the inclusion of ahuman fingertip in a salad to go."