FRANKLIN, Tenn. --- McDonald's reneged on its promise to share the test results of a "reddish" chicken nugget a 6-year-old boy bit into, then refused to eat, the child's family says. The boy became ill, and the family says they just wanted to know what was in it, which McDonald's promised to tell them - then refused.
The Howell family says they were tricked into sending the reddish chicken nugget to a testing facility when an employee of McDonald's insurer, Travelers Insurance, said that if they did so they would get the test results.
Travelers Insurance is not a party to the lawsuit in Williamson County Court.
It was not until the nugget was in McDonald's hands that the family learned "that 'the information will not be released to anyone outside of McDonald's, including adjusters or claimants,'" according to the complaint.
Six-year-old Jake's mother, Shauna Howell, says she tried to reason with the insurance company via email.
"In this email, Mrs. Howell explained that the Howells were not interested in money, but the Howells wanted the chicken nugget tested 'to be sure Jake didn't ingest anything that would cause harm to him long term.'
"Within an hour, [Traveler's employee] Ms. [Fay] Johnson responded that the testing company McDonald's uses would send the Howells a testing kit with instructions on how to send the chicken nugget to the testing facility. Ms. Johnson further stated that Defendants would 'update [the Howells] once the testing is complete,'" the complaint states.
The nugget in question was the last of four nuggets Jake Howell got in a Happy Meal.
"Jake bit into the nugget, and he immediately said to his father that the chicken nugget looked funny and red and that he did not want to eat it," the complaint states.
"After reaching their home, the Howells examined the chicken nugget Jake had said did not look right. The chicken nugget had a noticeable reddish/pinkish color throughout the inside that is usually a white color, as well as on the outside of the nugget," the family says.
The Howells say the McDonald's manager offered to give them a free chicken nugget but they declined.
"The very same evening, Jake experienced diarrhea and an upset stomach. These same symptoms continued throughout the next day," the Howells says.
Worried their son might be seriously ill, the Howells froze the chicken nugget until they could find a lab to test it.
After an unsuccessful search for a lab in the Nashville area, "The Howells offered, through the defendants' insurance company, Travelers Insurance, to send the chicken nugget to McDonald's in exchange for McDonald's having the chicken nugget tested and providing the results to the Howells," the complaint states.
"The nugget was received and signed for on November 10, 2010."
After repeated requests for information, the family says, "On January 27, 2010, defendants told the Howells that they would not release the results of the testing on the chicken nugget. This shocked the Howells and has caused great worry as to why the test results would not be disclosed to them."
McDonald's offered to return the chicken nugget, but did not return it in the same condition.
"The Howells sent a whole chicken nugget to defendants. Defendants returned approximately twenty percent (20%) of what the Howells sent to defendants. Further, it had as ashy and charcoal-like appearance, which was not at all similar to the condition it was in when it was sent," the complaint states.
The Howells say they "are shocked by the conduct of the defendants. The Howells contacted defendants for peace of mind and answers to their legitimate worries about the health of their son. The Howells would never have sent the chicken nugget to defendants without a promise of disclosure of the test results."
The Howells want the results so they can address of any health issues their son may have.
They sued McDonald's and The Good Food Group, which operates the McDonald's that served the mystery nugget, alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and negligence.
They are represented by Tara Swafford and Lauren Cooney with The Swafford Law Firm of Franklin, Tenn.