CHARLESTON - The mother of a Clarksburg man who made national headlines when he sued McDonald's after he suffered an allergic reaction to the cheese on his burger, has spoken out about the case, the accident and what she hopes lies ahead.
Trela Jackson of Bridgeport and her son Jeromy Jackson are seeking $10 million from McDonald's after Jeromy had a severe allergic reaction to his food. However, Trela Jackson wants to make it clear that the case is about more than just the $10 million.
"I'm not some money-hungry person trying to make a buck off McDonald's," Trela Jackson said during a phone interview Wednesday. "(McDonald's) made a mistake, they have to be held accountable when they make mistakes."
The mistake is one that happened Oct. 30, 2005, when Jeromy Jackson, 19 at the time, went through a drive-through at McDonald's with his mother and a friend. He ordered two Quarter Pounders without cheese. According to the lawsuit, Jackson twice requested that his food be made without cheese and asked twice when he received his food.
Trela Jackson said the receipt said "no cheese" and there was a sticker on his boxes that stated the sandwiches were made without cheese. However, when Jeromy Jackson bit into the burger, he began having a severe allergic reaction to the cheese that was indeed on his food.
He was taken to United Hospital Center in Clarksburg where he was treated.
Jeromy Jackson incurred $700 in medical bills, which his mother wanted McDonald's to pay.
Trela Jackson claims she was given the telephone number of McDonald's insurance company because she wanted his medical bills paid. However, she said the restaurant refused.
"They jerked me around for years," Jackson said. "They would not pay his medical bills."
At that point, Trela and Jeromy Jackson decided to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the fast-food giant in hopes of getting their attention. They hired Morgantown attorney Timothy D. Houston.
Houston filed the lawsuit July 18 in Monongalia Circuit Court, seeking $10 million in punitive damages. Within weeks, the lawsuit had made national headlines. People from across the country were trying to contact Jeromy Jackson, his mother said.
She claims he was contacted repeatedly through social networking sites MySpace and Facebook and couldn't even watch television because of the news.
Then, in late October, Houston filed a motion to be withdrawn as counsel for the case, stating he was leaving his law practice. Trela Jackson said she was shocked to hear her attorney wanted off the case.
"My mouth fell open," she said. "I thought, 'I can't believe this.'
"We have been dealing with this for two years and are finally to the point where we get a trial and all of the sudden, he's out. What am I supposed to do?"
On Nov. 19, Monongalia Circuit Judge Robert Stone signed the order relieving Houston of his duties on the case. The order also states that all matters on the case are stayed for 30 days.
To view that order, click here.
Jackson said she believes the case has been so tainted it's difficult to move on to the next step.
"I thought Mr. Houston was doing everything in my best interest," she said. "When the case broke, I found that obviously he wasn't."
However, Jackson is pushing on with the case. She claims she would like to see McDonald's made accountable for their actions.
"For goodness sake, after two years of trauma and stress, we do deserve something," Jackson said. "They just think they can get away with so much and not take responsibility. It's not fair.
"We're ready to go whenever we're represented."
McDonald's filed a response to the initial lawsuit in August, denying any wrongdoing. Jackson claims she would like to see McDonald's take responsibility and develop better customer service to help serve people with disabilities, such as food allergies.
"When you're in customer service, they should be capable and have people trained to listen and take it seriously," Jackson said. "I want people with food allergies to be vindicated, understood and listened to."
Trela Jackson said her son has been very traumatized by the situation, although she claims he did nothing wrong.
"He ordered accordingly to how he can eat, a mistake was made and he suffered for it," Jackson said.
Houston had no comment.