Houston

MORGANTOWN - A lawsuit filed by a West Virginia man against the world's top fast food chain has been a hot topic on news talk shows and message boards across the nation.

Jeromy Jackson is suing McDonald's, seeking $10 million in punitive damages after he had an allergic reaction to the cheese on his sandwich he purchased from the restaurant.

The suit was filed July 18 in Monongalia Circuit Court by attorney Timothy D. Houston. Jackson's mother, Trela, and his friend Andrew Ellifritz are also named as plaintiffs in the suit. Trela Jackson and Ellifritz were in the car with Jeromy Jackson, and claim they were put in danger when they had to rush him to the hospital.

According to the suit, Jackson went to the McDonald's on Chaplin Road in Morgantown and ordered two Quarter Pounders without cheese. Jackson claims he repeatedly asked employees at the restaurant to make sure no cheese would be placed on his sandwiches.

According to an interview with the Charleston Daily Mail, Houston said Jackson, his mother and his friend got their food, then drove to Clarksburg to watch a movie in a darkened room. Houston claims Jackson pulled out his burger and bit into it, thinking there would be no cheese on it.

However, Jackson immediately started to have an allergic reaction and was taken to a Clarksburg-area hospital. Jackson seeks $10 million in punitive damages.

"We're interested in seeing McDonald's take responsibility and change a systemic quality control problem that endangers the lives of up to 12 million Americans with allergies," Houston told the Daily Mail.

Houston told the Daily Mail that Jackson told a McDonald's worker through the drive-thru speaker and two others face-to-face at the drive-thru windows that he was allergic to cheese.

"By my count, he took at least five independent steps to make sure that thing had no cheese on it," Houston told the paper. "And it did and almost cost him his life."

Houston told the Daily Mail that someone immediately called McDonald's to report the problem but had to go to take Jackson to the hospital. Houston also said two McDonald's managers called Jackson afterward to apologize.

McDonald's first offered to pay half of Jackson's $700 in medical bills, then later offered to pay all of it. That offer was refused.

In a statement to The West Virginia Record, Houston said all of the facts in the case need to be released.

"While we, the plaintiffs against McDonald's, are flattered that the public had found Mr. Jackson's story interesting, we feel it is important to emphasize that all the facts in this case have not yet been brought to light," Houston said Thursday in the statement.

"We thank both the press and the public for their support on what we regard as not just a tort claim, but additionally an important public health issue."

The story has been a popular topic on message boards and talk shows, even crossing onto some British Web sites.

The original West Virginia Record article about the case was featured last week in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web, and it was one of the most-discussed stories Monday on MSNBC.

More than 138,000 hits about the story were found on Google as of Wednesday night. Here is what some others are saying about the case:

* Conservative radio host Sean Hannity discussed the case on his show, and his Web site, citing the suit as a reason the country needs tort reform. A person commenting on the thread said, "I won't go so far as to say that the lawsuit itself is wrong. The McDonalds [sic] did screw up his order in a way that they were made aware could pose a health risk. But this negligence is mitigated by the contributory negligence of the customer when he didn't even bother to check the burger himself."

* Bob Parks, senior editor of the New Media Journal, said this on his blog, Black and Right, "Let's be real. There are a lot of good people working at fast food joints, but they are also not highly paid and some really don't give a damn. If I was awarded $10 million for every time I got a tomato on my Whopper or fried egg on a Sausage McMuffin after asking for them not to be included, I'd own a few franchises and I'd always get it my way."

* Jonathan David Morris, of Renew America, had this to say, "I am not lactose intolerant, but I sympathize with Jackson. Moreover, I have no sympathy whatsoever for McDonald's here. True, had he lifted his bun and checked before biting, Jackson could have saved himself from harm. But at what point do we say enough is enough already? McDonald's 'mistake' was no honest error. These fast food chains have been pushing cheese on us for years."

* One moderator on the blog iraqnow.blogspot.com said, "It's hard for me to imagine why it should be more important for McDonald's workers to ensure he got a no-cheese burger than it would be for him. If he can't be bothered to take some responsibility and look for himself, then why should anyone else be expected to do so?"

Houston told The Record on Thursday the case will remain in Monongalia Circuit Court, and he also said he will not comment to the media as the litigation process continues.

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