$13M Lawsuit Claims Staff Gave Woman Coffee With Chemicals

Leandro Mortenegro
  • A woman claims a McDonald’s outlet in Alabama served her coffee containing a “harmful chemical.”
  • Staff refused to call 911 or let her see the label on the chemical bottle, Sherry Head said.
  • She filed a $13 million suit against the fast-food chain, claiming the chemical harmed her.

A woman claims that a McDonald’s restaurant in Alabama served her a coffee containing a “harmful chemical” that damaged her throat and organs.

She said staff refused to call 911 or let her and emergency responders see the label on the chemical bottle so they could determine the appropriate treatment.

The plaintiff, Sherry Head of Florida, filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant on September 19 seeking $13 million in compensation. KTLA first reported on the lawsuit.

“The health and safety of our customers and employees is always a top priority,”  Gerry Murphy, one of the restaurant’s owner-operators, told Insider in a comment provided by McDonald’s.

Head ordered a caramel macchiato at the drive-thru of the McDonald’s restaurant at 3520 Ross Clark Circle, Dothan in December 2020. The lawsuit states she was told by one staff member that she couldn’t have the coffee because the machine was being cleaned, but then heard another say the machine was “ready to go.”

The staff member at the drive-thru then told Head her drink could be served. It came with a lid on the cup, the lawsuit stated.

“Plaintiff pulled forward, drank a portion of the caustic chemical liquid, and immediately began to experience a burning and numbing sensation in her mouth and throat,” according to the lawsuit.

At this point, Head removed the lid from the cup “and saw that the liquid was not coffee, but appeared to be some type of chemical,” it stated. 

Head pulled back through the drive-thru line and told employees what had happened, according to the lawsuit, after which the manager “screamed” at staff and said they should have been “more careful.” The manager told Head that it was “fine,” per the lawsuit.

Head then asked to see the label on the bottle of the chemical and asked what she should do, but was refused access to the bottle by the manager, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit said the manager refused to call 911 or poison control and slammed the drive-thru window shut, leaving Head to call 911 herself.

McDonald’s staff also refused to grant emergency responders’ request to view the bottle once they arrived, the lawsuit alleged.

“As a direct result of drinking the dangerous chemical concoction served to her by McDonald’s, plaintiff suffered injuries to her mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, digestive tract, and other internal organs,” the lawsuit said.  “McDonald’s conduct towards the plaintiff was atrocious and utterly intolerable.”

Head is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. The lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s, its Alabama branch, and the two owner-operators of the franchised restaurant.

“Immediately upon learning of this concern, we conducted a thorough investigation to understand the facts,” Murphy told Insider. “We are aware of the complaint filed in the circuit court of Houston County, Alabama.”

The lawsuit listed a series of other instances where McDonald’s allegedly served cleaning chemicals to customers in drinks including iced tea, hot chocolate, lattes, and Coke.

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