Spit-laced burger is grounds for emotional distress suit, state supreme court says
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A sheriff’s deputy who claims he was served–but did not eat–a spit-laced burger can sue the burger maker under state product liability law for emotional distress, the Washington Supreme Court has held.
The court, in a 6-3 decision (PDF) Thursday, said state law permits relief for emotional distress damages, in the absence of physical injury, caused by being served a contaminated food product, if the emotional distress is a reasonable reaction, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
Clark County sheriff’s deputy Edward Bylsma had sued Burger King Corp. and a Vancouver-area franchise in 2009 after he said he was served a Whopper topped with spit by a Burger King employee with a criminal record.
Blysma didn’t eat the burger in question. After receiving his food, he lifted the top bun and saw what he described as a “slimy, clear and white phlegm glob” that was later determined to be spit on the patty.
A DNA test confirmed that the employee was the culprit. He pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Bylsma’s suit was previously dismissed by a federal court judge on the grounds that the state’s product liability law does not allow for recovery of mental distress damages caused to a purchaser by a contaminated product in the absence of physical injury.
But the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sought a clarification of the law in a certified question it presented to the state supreme court last month.
Hat tip to How Appealing