Well, folks, it’s officially winter time. Snow was falling across much of the nation by early November. Now that it’s almost December you could say things are getting rather chilly. Speaking of chilly, Baton Rouge, LA personal Injury Attorney J. Price McNamara and the rest of his staff thought it might be appropriate to delve a little deeper into the infamous “Wendy’s Chili Finger” case.
The Case of the Wayward Chili Finger
Here’s a little light-hearted winter reading for you. I’m pretty sure you have all heard about the infamous lawsuit filed against the mega-conglomerate fast food chain Wendy’s in 2005. If not, well here’s a little background on the whole debacle.
On March 22, 2005, a woman by the name of Anna Ayala claimed that she found a severed human finger in a cup of chili she had ordered from Wendy’s. If this isn’t ridiculous enough, as you would think someone would notice an employee screaming about the fact that they had just severed their finger, an actual investigation was performed by the San Jose Police Department and Santa Clara County.
Though early reports from the incident claimed that the finger was, indeed, fully cooked, it was soon concluded that the finger in question did not come from any employees working at Wendy’s location or any of the ingredients used to make the chili. To make matters even more interesting, simple forensics made short time of determining that the tissue on the finger was not consistent with what human tissue would look like if it had been cooked in something for three hours at 170 degrees. Hmm… the chili plot thickens.
Of course, one would think that if Wendy’s was truly at fault for this incident, they might be looking at a hefty lawsuit. But were they?
Some Facts About the Case
Well, things start to come together, and fall apart for Miss Ayala, within the third paragraph of the San Jose Police Department Statement of Facts, written by Christopher A. Wilson who was the officer assigned with investigating the incident.
According to Wilson, on the day of March 31st, 2005 all of Miss Ayala’s family members who were present at the time she claimed to have “bitten into the finger” were interviewed. However, none of them claimed to have seen the finger in Ayala’s mouth but did see it once she drew attention to it. Ayala’s brother in law, who was sitting next to her, claims Ayala stated the finger had been in her mouth and she spit it out into the cup, however, he did not see her vomit.
On the other hand, Ayala’s mother-in-law states that she witnessed Ayala spit the item into the cup of chili and begin to vomit. However, no evidence of vomiting could be found at the scene upon investigation.
On March 29th, 2005 Wendy’s employees that were present at the time the finger was found in Ayala’s chili cup agreed to consensual Voice Stress Analyzer tests. The employees were asked about the incident and tests revealed that each was telling the truth about having no prior knowledge of the finger, its origins, or its placement into the chili. Additional witnesses who were present in the restaurant at the time Ayala found the finger in her chili also claimed the same as the Wendy’s employees. No one knew anything about the finger.
Background checks were then performed on Ayala herself. The results of which revealed that Ayala had filed numerous civil claims, thirteen to be exact, in both Nevada and California. It was also discovered that Ayala often times settled for cash payouts before the cases were ever heard in court.
Furthermore, a traceback on the food products used in the preparation of Wendy’s food was performed by the California Department of Health Services. It revealed that no accidents or contaminations had been reported in any of the locations that provide Wendy’s with food products.
Then, on April 12th, 2005 it was publicly announced that Ayala was no longer seeking compensation from Wendy’s. However, the Corporate Director of Marketing for Wendy’s responded with a claim of their own. Apparently, the corporation had been experiencing an estimated loss of one million dollars a day in sales since the incident was made public on March 22, 2005.
So what does this leave us with? It means that the finger came from an outside source, and that outside source appears to have been Ayala herself. It also leaves Miss Ayala looking at a heap of trouble.
So, What Actually Happened? And More Importantly, Where Did the Finger Come From?
This case really flipped on Ayala, and her husband. Jaime Plascencia, as well. Both of them were actually involved in the incident and both ended up pleading guilty to planting the finger. Both were sentenced to nine years in prison.
However, Ayala was released from prison after four years due to good behavior. It was after her release that Ayala came clean to the public about the incident.
“I cooked it,” Ayala states in an interview with ABC, regarding the finger. Ayala revealed that her husband obtained the finger from a friend of theirs who had lost it in an industrial accident. Ayala stated that she cooked the finger at home, brought it to the Wendy’s and then placed it into the cup of chili she had ordered.
Moral of the Story?
Personal injury lawsuits are not something to mess with. They are taken very seriously in the eyes of the law, and full-scale investigations will be launched based on claims made the “victims.” In other words, if you are lying, you will be discovered, and you will have to suffer the consequences. Forensics are leading the way in courts of law across the globe, breaking new ground and making it harder than ever to lie about things.
Remember, people can lie all they want, but forensic evidence has no bias.
Until next time readers, stay truthful and Godspeed.
Following graduation from Loyola Law School in New Orleans in 1990, Price McNamara served as a Federal Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable John M Shaw, Chief Judge, United States District Court Western District of Louisiana.
Mr. McNamara founded the Law Offices of J. Price McNamara, and began putting his past experience to work for the injured and disabled clients he now represents against the insurance companies in personal injury and long term disability and other insurance disputes in both federal and state courts