Stella Case No. 030, Originally Published: 15 January 2003
Marcus Long, 61, has cancer in his brain, colon, lung and spine. He’s a very sick man. He and his wife Elaine moved to a new house in Clear Lake, Texas, to be close to medical care. “I was too scared to be more than 20 minutes from his doctors,” Elaine says. They say he “nearly died” three times during 2002.
Marcus may be deathly ill, but like most people he likes to eat out once in a while, even though he obviously needs to be careful. He favors McDonald’s, where nearly every morning Elaine got him three sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast burritos, plus two pints of milk to wash them down.
But one day, the burritos she brought home were “filled” with black pepper, and when Marcus bit into one he choked and got a nosebleed. She took the burritos back to McDonald’s, but found the manager “wasn’t apologetic or anything.” Worse, the manager didn’t offer a refund or a free Happy Meal.
Elaine says Marcus has gone “downhill” since the event, and has nosebleeds regularly. The Longs are thus suing McDonald’s in Galveston County Court, alleging breach of implied warranty for offering food that’s “unfit for human consumption” as “wholesome.”
Dr. Leslie Botnick, a Los Angeles radiation oncologist, was asked to comment about the case. He has not examined Mr. Long, but he’s quite familiar with how pepper consumption irritates cancer patients’ systems.
“Black pepper is a onetime event,” Botnick says. Clearly it can be irritating, but Marcus “spit it out. It’s not gonna be there on a daily basis. If you buy a burrito, it’s sometimes gonna be hot. That’s what burritos do.”
Botnick adds that cancer patients often bleed — it’s usually due to their cancers, not pepper, Dr. Botnick says, adding “Pepper does not promote cancer.”
If McDonald’s put a lot of pepper into food items that normally doesn’t have added pepper, shame on them. The manager was out of line if she didn’t apologize or refund the Long’s money. It’s sad Mr. Long is suffering an early and painful death, but should it be McDonald’s responsibility to ensure their food is acceptable for every possible condition, even a man on his deathbed?
The Longs may be angry to be “victims,” but they’re victims of life, not McDonald’s. Still, corporations need to learn how to say “sorry,” as long as lawyers and courts don’t pounce on a decent human apology as evidence of liability.
- “Mac Attack — a Cancer Patient Sues McDonald’s, Contending a Peppered Burrito Caused His Nosebleed”, Houston Press, 16 January 2003
Before we move on, a pre-answer to the especially sharp readers out there: yes, the date on the source article for the case is one day after the TSA issue date! Many weekly publications put a “future” date on their covers, but TSA issues are dated the day they are released.
I searched but did not find anything about what happened — not even an obituary for Mr. Long.
My 2020 Thoughts on the Case
Pretty much I said it all in the conclusion this time: people in fragile health do need to be careful in what they eat. (In reality, we all do!) Hell, McD’s three sausage, egg, and cheese burritos and a quart of milk nearly every day could bring a healthy man to his knees after awhile!
With the TSA getting lots of play in the media, what with the first annual Awards being issued, there was an increase in letters from readers and site visitors asking about “The Winnebago Case” — and being confused over whether the email they got from a friend of a friend is “really” from a True Stella Awards mailing or not.
And radio stations and magazines really started picking up that dumb urban legend email filled with fake cases! You know: the same old one that’s on my bogus page that culminates in The Winnebago Case, the fake email that sparked this site to begin with!
Unfortunately, some of these publications only did a partial “fact checking” by going to this site and seeing it’s real, and run by a real journalist — and then assuming that the anonymous email they got is a product of my work. Wrong! Worst of all, some of them are then attributing the years-old fake email to me to give it credibility! A lot of embarrassed editors are thus having to run corrections/retractions, as well they should. Is it really so difficult for them to click on the “Contact Us” link and make a phone call or drop me an email before attributing stuff to me?
The “bogus page” was up on this site before the first case was issued. The whole idea behind the True Stella Awards is to talk about real cases, not silly urban legends.
And the erroneous attribution of the same old fake cases continued to be published and talked about on radio shows for the rest of the publication’s life …and beyond. The story of one such radio show that I got roped into is published in my blog: G. Gordon Stella.
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