[caption id="attachment_2158" align="alignleft" width="150"] Image credit: Facebook[/caption] If you have been paying attention to the media in June, the stories you have heard are enough to make you rethink pulling through the drive through on your way home from work. First, a picture of a Taco Bell employee licking a stack of taco shells went viral. Though the company asserts that the photograph was of "training shells" that were to be discarded, the image is enough to turn the stomachs of countless customers. Next, a photo of a Wendy's employee guzzling a Frosty straight from the soft-serve machine appeared on Reddit, continuing the fast food gross-out trend. [caption id="attachment_2157" align="alignright" width="150"] Photo credit: imgur[/caption] It is likely that these disgusting behaviors have been around as long as bored kids have had low-paying jobs in the food industry. But until recent years, they haven't been armed with cell phone cameras, social media, and a complete lack of consideration for the consequences of posting images of their inappropriate, unsanitary, and , even illegal behavior. This photographic evidence of behind-the-scenes shenanigans has created a public relations nightmare for fast food companies trying to do damage control for a customer-base that can't just bleach their eyeballs and get rid of the repugnant images out of their minds.The fast food industry is clearly not immune to litigation. Personal injury lawsuits include plaintiffs who have suffered injury or illness from improper food handling and foreign objects in food. Some of the most notable fast food lawsuits follow:
- McDonald's Coffee: Perhaps the best-known injury lawsuit against a fast food company is the suit of Stella Liebeck who was initially awarded nearly $3 million for being burned by hot coffee. A judge later reduced the amount to $640,000, and it is reported that a settlement was reached for somewhat less than that. People mock this case and call it a frivolous lawsuit (isn't coffee supposed to be hot?) but most are unaware that the coffee was superheated beyond federal regulations, that the company had previously been warned about it, and that Liebeck suffered third degree burns to her thighs and vagina and endured multiple surgeries. Sure, coffee is supposed to be hot, but not that hot.
- McDonald's False Claims: McDonald's paid $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by religious groups and vegetarian groups after telling a Hindu customer that it's french fries and hash browns were vegetarian. Unfortunately, the fries were cooked in beef tallow, causing customers to unknowingly violate their religious and philosophical principles. In a similar false claims suit, a woman sued Taco Bell for claiming to use "seasoned beef" in its products, when in fact, only 35 percent of the meat mixture was actually beef.
- McDonald's Glass in Food: At least three people have sued the fast food giant after finding shards of glass in their food. A New York police officer sued for $5.5 million after suffering injury from glass intentionally placed in his burger by an employee. Another New Yorker suffered permanent oral injury after biting into glass in a chicken sandwich. In that case, the glass allegedly came from an overheated coffee pot that shattered. Now a Brooklyn gospel singer is suing after she says she swallowed glass in her chicken sandwich, permanently damaging her vocal cords and affecting her career.
- Jack in the Box E. Coli: In 1993, more than 600 people became ill and four children died after an E. coli outbreak from undercooked beef patties contaminated with fecal matter. The company settled hundreds of lawsuits, including a $15.6 million settlement to a child who suffered kidney failure.
- Wendy's Finger Chili: A woman sued Wendy's after allegedly finding a severed finger in her chili. The company claims it lost $2.5 million in sales as a result of her claim, which was later proven false. The woman who perpetrated the hoax allegedly paid a man $100 for his finger to plant in her chili. She served five years in prison for the scam.