An Oakland County, Michigan man is suing a popular Italian restaurant chain due to what he says was a unsettling discovery in a dish served at its Warren location.
Thomas Howie of Madison Heights is seeking damages of more than $75,000 in the incident, in a lawsuit filed Aug. 18 against the Olive Garden restaurant, located at 30600 Van Dyke Avenue.
In a release from his attorneys, Howie said he was dining with two other people on March 11. As he ate from a bowl of minestrone soup, he felt something “sharp” stab his cheek. He spat the item into a napkin only to realize it was the fur-covered foot of a rat, complete with claws.
“It was so gross and disgusting I couldn’t control myself. My stomach just heaved; I threw up right in the restaurant. I was mortified. Until this happened, this was my favorite restaurant. I still can’t believe it,” he said.
The release goes on to say restaurant employees were dismissive of the claim.
“That’s funny, we don’t put meat in minestrone,” he said was one of the responses he received.
At an urgent care facility, Howie was given a tetanus shot and prescribed a series of antibiotics for a cut on the inside of this cheek. The treating physician identified the object in the napkin as a rat’s leg, the release adds.
The release states in the lawsuit, filed in Macomb County Circuit Court, Howie had trouble sleeping, experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty eating, and became increasingly depressed. Howie claims in the lawsuit he continues to have difficulty eating meat, and “has become paranoid about food served by others.”
He has since suffered a stroke and needs ongoing medical attention, his attorneys state.
Attorney David Gwinn of Troy said the lawsuit was filed after months of failed attempts to negotiate a settlement with Olive Garden.
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“We tried to work this out and avoid litigation, but Olive Garden refuses to acknowledge the serious nature of the incident, the threat food contamination poses to public health, and the ongoing harm Mr. Howie is experiencing,” Gwinn said. “Just the thought of being served vermin like this is revolting.”
An Olive Garden representative responded to an inquiry from The Macomb Daily Tuesday.
“We have no reason to believe there’s any validity to this claim,” said Rich Jeffers of Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and several other chain restaurants.
A photo of the rat’s leg provided in court filings appears much larger than a soup spoon though in the lawsuit Howie’s attorneys point out their client was “not really looking at his soup as he ate.”
The case has been assigned to Judge Michael Servitto.