(CN) – A policeman whose Burger King hamburger contained a glob of spit can try to prove that he suffered “emotional distress,” the Washington Supreme Court ruled.
Edward Bylsma, a Clark County deputy sheriff, drove his marked police car through a Burger King drive-through and had an uneasy feeling after he received his burger.
He stopped in a parking lot to remove the top bun and found that someone had spat on his meat patty. DNA testing later confirmed that the saliva matched that of one of the Burger King employees.
Bylsma sued Burger King in federal court for negligence, product liability and vicarious liability. He claimed that the incident caused him sleeplessness, vomiting and food aversion.
A federal judge dismissed the case, ruling that the Washington Product Liability Act does not provide for damages for emotional distress in the absence of physical injury.
Bylsma appealed to the 9th Circuit, which asked the Washington Supreme Court for guidance.
The state’s highest court concluded Thursday that Bylsma could take his case to trial.
“Common sense tells us that food consumption is a personal matter, and contaminated food is closely associated with disgust and other kinds of emotional turmoil,” Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote for the court. “Thus, when a food manufacturer served a contaminated food product, it is well within the scope of foreseeable harm consequences that the individual will suffer emotional damages.”
At trial, Bylsma may be successful “if the emotional distress is a reasonable response and manifest by objective symptomatology,” the ruling states.
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