Popeyes Defends Against Flesh-Eating Worms Suit

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Popeyes restaurants says a Texas woman who blames its rice and beans for infecting her with New World screwworms that ate her alive “from the inside out” is not without fault and should pay for any damages caused by the flesh-eating maggots.

An attorney for Popeyes filed a general denial of Karen Goode’s claims in Bexar County Court on Monday. He asked a judge to dismiss the case and blamed Goode for being contributorily negligent.

Goode sued Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen dba Popeyes, and its franchisee Z&H Foods, on Feb. 7.

The San Antonio resident said in her lawsuit that flesh-eating screwworms entered her digestive tract, laid eggs that embedded in the lining of her small intestine, “and when hatched, infested plaintiff’s body and began to eat plaintiff alive from the inside out.”

New World screwworms are maggots that infest livestock and other warm-blooded animals, including people, although human cases are rare, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If left untreated, infestations can be fatal.

In its first legal response in the case, filed Monday, Popeyes denied responsibility for damages and asked that Goode be required to back up her claims with evidence.

Goode claims that Popeyes and Z&H Foods failed to adequately train employees to inspect, evaluate, control, prepare or maintain food free from flesh-eating screwworms. She says the restaurant had actual knowledge that its food contained flesh-eating screwworms and sold it to her anyway.

In court documents denying liability last month, Z&H Foods called Goode’s claims “vague,” and said that any injuries “were not proximately caused by the alleged occurrence in question.”

“Defendant contends that at the time and on the occasion in question, there was a failure on the part of the plaintiff to exercise that degree of care which an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances,” an attorney for Z&H said in the March 3 answer.

“Defendant contends that the damages, if any, that plaintiff is alleging was caused by the acts, negligence or products of third parties not under defendant’s control.”

The San Antonio restaurant outlet also asked that Goode be required to amend her petition, “as it fails to state a date on which the alleged event occurred.”

Popeyes spokeswoman Renee Kopkowski did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but said in February that the company does not typically comment on pending litigation.

After Courthouse News first reported on Goode’s lawsuit, the company issued a statement calling food safety “a top priority” and casting doubt on Goode’s claims.

“We don’t discuss details of litigation, but we can tell you that we understand that, while investigating this matter, the franchisee has worked with outside parties who have found the claims to be unfounded and false,” Kopkowski said in the statement.

“We can also assure you that the side dishes at this local Popeyes and all Popeyes restaurants have a strict standard and are cooked and maintained at 165 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that would make it impossible for bacteria or other foreign matter to survive the cooking process.

“Popeyes makes food safety a top priority and we put the safety and welfare of our guests first, so we will continue to investigate this matter,” the restaurant said.

Goode seeks more than $1 million in damages and punitive damages for negligence, medical expenses, physical disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of bodily functions and lost enjoyment of life – all in the past, present and future.

She said she has been ravaged by E.coli, ulcer-causing Helicobacter Pylori bacteria, and other injuries to her neck, digestive tract, shoulders and arm after unknowingly eating the maggots.

Popeyes is represented by Jeffrey House with Curney, Farmer, House & Osuna; Z&H by Gordon Stafford Jr., both of San Antonio.

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