In a lawsuit filed in Moab’s 7th District Court, Sean Robert Gaines alleges that an insect inside the sandwich stung his tongue, causing him significant pain, suffering and emotional distress.
As a result, the 44-year-old man is asking 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson to award roughly $16,800 in special damages. In addition, he’s requesting a jury trial in order to determine if he’s entitled to additional punitive damages.
Gaines’ lawsuit, which names franchisee King Enterprises V LLC, Douglas R. King and “John Does 1-10” as co-defendants, says that he has experienced long-term trauma as a result of the alleged incident.
“He felt like he was going to die,” the lawsuit states. “Since then, he has had recurring nightmares and anxiety about stinging insects or spiders and now has fears about eating at fast-food restaurants. Since Moab is a small town and McDonalds is on the main street, Mr. Gaines is reminded every day when he drives past McDonalds of the suffering he endured from eating a sandwich purchased there.”
According to Gaines’ legal complaint, he and friend Jill Fletcher stopped by the local franchise on Sept. 13, 2012 and ordered a McDouble sandwich and a sausage biscuit with cheese.
They began to eat their sandwiches as they pulled away from the drive-thru window and headed off to the Maverik convenience store, where they both got out of the car to pay for gas.
Gaines continued to eat as Fletcher filled up the gas tank, and when he took one more bite, he alleges that he felt a sharp pain in his mouth, according to the court documents.
He alleges he did not see any bees or other insects in the area, and believes that something inside the sandwich stung him, according to the lawsuit. That belief made him extremely fearful and anxious, the lawsuit says, because Gaines is allergic to bee stings.
Immediately afterward, he began to experience the telltale symptoms of a bee sting, the lawsuit says.
At first, Gaines felt “funny,” as his right ear and neck grew unusually warm. As the minutes wore on, his vision became blurry and his breathing felt constricted, so he asked Fletcher to drive him to the emergency room at Moab Regional Hospital, according to court documents.
They arrived there within three to four minutes. In that short amount of time, though, Gaines’ condition appeared to worsen rapidly, according to Fletcher.
By then, he was having trouble breathing, and he was sweating profusely, the lawsuit says.
“It was traumatic and scary for me, as well, watching my friend nearly die,” Fletcher said during a brief Sept. 3 phone interview with The Times-Independent. “I’ve never seen anybody go into anaphylactic shock before, and it was extremely traumatic (for both of us).”
Gaines’ own memories of that time are vague, the lawsuit says. But the attending emergency room physician determined that his patient was suffering from an insect bite, or possibly a bee sting.
For that diagnosis, the lawsuit says Gaines received an invoice for more than $1,557. Yet Gaines, who is uninsured, fell behind on his bill, so that amount has since grown to $1,638.
He is seeking to recoup that sum, as well as other costs he says he incurred as a result of the incident, for a judgment amounting to roughly three times the general damages.
In the future, he would like to meet with a therapist or a mental health counselor to deal with his emotional trauma, but he cannot afford to pay for either service, the lawsuit says.
Gaines previously “demanded” payment from the defendants. But the franchisee refused him outright, while McDonald’s has not responded, the lawsuit says.
However, defense attorney Joyce G. Smith argues in the lawsuit that the defendants should ultimately be held liable for the damages because they breached their duty to “refrain from conduct that would cause [Gaines] injury.”
Smith is also seeking judicial relief on the grounds that her client’s injury occurred as a result of the defendants’ negligence.
Finally, she alleges that McDonald’s and the franchisee sold Gaines a sandwich that was not fit for human consumption. In doing so, she claims they breached the implied warranty that the product was of “fair average quality and fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson did not respond by press time to The Times-Independent’s requests for comment.