Texas Entrepreneur Blames Bad Tortilla Chips for Stroke

HOUSTON (CN) – A Houston man says he had a stroke because a salt shaker, dirty napkin and rancid chips were found in tortilla-chip bags he supplied for promotional events, in a lawsuit claiming the chip maker damaged his food-distribution company’s reputation.

Henry’s Dream Distributors is owned and managed by Henry Riojas. The Houston-based company filed a complaint Thursday in Harris County District Court accusing a tortilla-chip manufacturer of gross negligence, deceptive trade, negligent misrepresentation, breach of warranty, breach of contract and negligence.

According to the lawsuit, Riojas suffered a stroke shortly after a July 2016 event hosted by Houston Community College, where Henry’s gave out samples of chips made and packaged by El Matador Foods Inc.

El Matador makes corn chips and corn and flour tortillas at its plant in the Houston suburb of Baytown. Its founder Eugene Ybarra started making corn tortillas for Baytown restaurants in 1960 with five employees turning out 2,400 tortillas an hour, according to the company’s website.

Ybarra established El Matador Foods in 1989 and began selling tortillas and chips to retail outlets.

Henry’s says in its lawsuit it hired El Matador to make tortilla chips in 2010 and didn’t have any problems with the quality until 2016.

“In February 2016, a salt shaker was found in a sealed manufactured bag of tortilla chips while performing a demonstration at Sam’s Club. … Several customers saw the salt shaker roll out of the bag and walked off from the demonstration,” the lawsuit states.

Henry’s says the incident stressed Riojas because it endangered Henry’s contract to supply chips and salsa to Walmart and Sam’s Club.

But Henry’s says Riojas reached his breaking point a few months later after a “dirty napkin was found” in a sealed bag of chips opened at the Houston Community College event, and Henry’s was barred from the event because the chips it passed out for samples were rancid.

The lawsuit says Riojas was overcome with “severe emotional distress” from the bad publicity, which caused his stroke on Aug. 5, 2016.

Henry’s had to hire a manager to replace Riojas. El Matador Foods’ lack of quality control also forced Henry’s to turn down a contract with the Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, the complaint states.

The distribution company seeks punitive damages, lost profits, and costs for hiring a new chip maker. It also wants El Matador held liable for Riojas’ medical bills.

Henry’s is represented by Delphine James in Houston.

An El Matador representative referred Courthouse News on Tuesday to its attorney Al Dean Allcorn, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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