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would you sue for this?

A bunch of us ladies went out for our occasional, fairly regular Turkish dinner and when we asked for our plate of olives they told us they had had to stop serving olives because a customer had broken a tooth and was suing for $60,000.

We were flabbergasted that somebody would sue for something as obvious as a pit in an olive. Should the restaurant have warned the customer that there were pits, or is the onus on the customer?

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  1. The customer "may" be suing for $60,000, but my limited knowledge of the law and food tells me they won't be successful in the suit because a pit in an olive can be an assumed risk.

    1. Wow, that's some expensive dental work. And my answer would be no, unless that is an olive with fancy footwork which makes it capable of jumping off the plate and pummeling me.

      1. No doubt they had $600 in dental work, and are also asking for pain and suffering, lost wages, and possibly punitive damages, although that would be hilarious.

        Skipping past the assumption of the risk issue, which I don't think applies (think about it, you don't generally assume the risk for breaking your teeth when you eat at a restaurant - what if there was a bone?), the issue will be whether a reasonable person would expect there to be a pit in an olive when it was perfectly obvious upon inspection (perhaps...open and obvious??? hehehe) that the olives were not pitted.

        Hell, I'd take it to a jury, depending on where it was at - do a mental tabulation of everyone you know and tell me how the answer to this question would vary, i.e. whether any of them have eaten olives that didn't come out of a jar. It's basically like suing whole foods for a defective product because the olives you bought off the bar didn't have the "red stuff" in the middle. Everyone knows they come that way!!!!

        On the other hand, I know someone who (successfully) sued cheez whiz because it burned them when they pulled it out of the microwave. What is the warning label supposed to say? "Danger: product will be hot when heated"?

        1. No I would not sue for this. It would not occur to me to sue for this.

          A couple of years ago, a similar thing happened to my wife in a restaurant (in Charleston, SC) - broke a tooth on something hard in the food. We mentioned it to the server who apologised - which was all we would reasonably expect.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            ah, but Harters, you don't live in Litigiousville, U.S.A.

            1. re: mariacarmen

              True - although a family member did seriously threaten to sue us because she gashed her leg on our garden wall. I told her to "go away" (although I didnt use the words "go away")

              1. re: Harters

                see, here, that wouldn't have shooed her away sufficiently. the suit would have been filed before her wound could scab over. I remember in Venice once, the waters had risen and every store owner waded about blithely in their galoshes, and the powers that be had set up a rather flimsy low bridge-like scaffolding so that people could walk over the biggest pools of collected water. i remember seeing a woman, a tourist, having to jump off one of the scaffoldings and almost falling, and thought, "there is NOW WAY IN HELL that would fly in the States." There, it was," we made you this bridge so you can try to avoid getting wet, now be careful because you're responsible for taking care of yourself!"

                1. re: Harters

                  What do people expect when they climb over the wall to crash a garden party they weren't invited to? At the least won't be invited again. I have a a bit of land with rockeries and stone steps and lots of uneven ground. While I can easily see someone getting a bit tipsy and turning an ankle or even, god forbid, break a bone, I can't for the life of me imagine any family member or friend for that matter suing me for hurting themselves.

                  Go Away! indeed.


            2. It wouldn't even occur to me to sue for something like this. Maybe if the pit was somewhere you wouldn't expect it to be, like in the mashed potatoes or something. Even then, I'm way too lazy to go through all the trouble of getting my tooth fixed AND suing, lol.

              It's long ago ceased to amaze me the kinds of things people will sue for, but it's still disheartening. Some things are necessary and worth it, but probably most are not. Can't people just chalk some things up to life being complicated? Since when does there have to be someone to take responsibility for every single thing that goes wrong in one's life? And why can't people just work for their money instead of always looking for handouts? Ugh.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MichelleRenee

                Sush! Don't you know how many unemployed lawyers there are! ;-) Suing a restaurant to take good food off the menu should make us all sad. Especially...olives with a pit? Seriously? Should I sue for head on shrimp? Screw that, tail on shrimp? It's crunchy, I broke a tooth on it!

              2. #1 60K for a broken tooth seems high
                #2 Restaurant's insurance co. probably would have settled such a claim IF TRUE before suit was filed
                #3 Probably NOT TRUE
                #3a amount exagerated
                #3b an excuse that rouses sympathy and allows the restaurant to cut costs by doing away with a freebie.

                Yers, I'm doubting the veracity of the claim. Since personal Injury cases in the uS are usually taken on contingency basis, and the injured patron contributed to his/her injury by not checking and finding the pit (which is naturally in olives).this would be rejected by many legal firms.

                5 Replies
                1. re: bagelman01

                  well you know I don't know the ins and outs, we asked for olives and was told the resto was being sued for $60,000, they gave away other free dips instead so I don't think it was about freebies.

                  For all I know they had been sent a threatening letter by the biter of said olive pit and had decided to take away the lovely olives on advice of their lawyer.

                  Seems like people don't want to take responsibility for living these days. Living in S Fl we have billboards shouting "Who Can I Sue Dot Coms" all over the place.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    60k does seem high, but not to some. Kucinich had no problem with it.


                    1. re: Cachetes

                      I really don't think its unreasonable to think that your sandwich would be pit free, unlike a serving of olives in an appetizer. A salad would be kind of iffy.

                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        it was always a small dish of black Kalamata olives in a little oil put on the table when you first sat down. I would never expect them to bit pit free.

                    2. re: bagelman01

                      Insurance companies deny claims like that all the time, and while you are right, most decent lawyers won't take a case that has little chance of winning, there's always a guy out there winning to play the numbers game, and just takes them all, hoping one will hit.

                    3. I'd sue if I broke a tooth on the restaurant's jello. What is that phrase, "litigious society?"

                      19 Replies
                      1. re: beevod

                        Yes, because a reasonable person would not forsee that Jello could break a tooth. But a reasonable person could foresee that olives have pits and shopuld be checked or eaten carefully.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Does the same logic apply to supposedly "boneless" fish? If there's one bone in a million pieces, it's bound to wind up in my mouth.

                          1. re: mucho gordo

                            If the restaurant listed the fish as 'boneless' on the menu, they would be well advised to have a warning that some bones may be encountered, otherwise they may be negligent and have breached a duty of care to the patron. However listing the fish as a filet is not the same as touting the dish as boneless.

                            That said, a person who has lost of years experience eating fish might reasonably forsee the presence of an occasional bone in 'boneless' fish, while and 8 year old might take the word 'boneless' literally. That would be a judgment call for the trier oif fact and fodder for attorneys on both sides (we have to make a living somehow<VBG>).

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              I think from a legal standpoint a bone in "boneless fish" could be expected, just like a fragment of bone in something like a hamburger could be expected.

                              1. re: monku

                                There is a big difference of representing something as boneless and there being a bone, and the USDA allowing a minute percentage of bone fragment in hamburger. One doesn't represent (advertise) hamburger as boneless, as by definition/custom it is only ground flesh and fat. But if I put fish on a menu, and state it is boneless, the customer has a reasonable expectation that the skeleton and pin bones have been removed.

                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  I'm not sure if "boneless" is a guarantee.
                                  I think if you ordered clam chowder and chomped down on a clam shell it's the same thing, it's reasonable to expect a clam shell might be in clam chowder.

                                  1. re: monku

                                    No one is saying Guaranty, A written description of Boneless on a menu is a representation that there will be no bones in the item ordered. Someone ordering would have no reasonable expectation of having a bone in the 'boneless' item.
                                    Finding a shell fragment in clam chowder is unfortunate, but chances are the menu does not have a representation that the chowder is 'shellless'

                                    The representation of 'boneless' on the menu may mean that the seller has taken a duty upon him/her/itsself to provide food without a bone, and if a bone if served the seller may be negligent and liable in tort.

                                    In some state, the seller could also be liable under a consumer protection law (such as M.G.L. chapter 93A in Massachusetts) for misrepresenation/false advertising/

                                  2. re: bagelman01

                                    This is true, but I have, on rare occasions, encountered a pin bone in a salmon filet in a restaurant. Not that I care much. Although it is reasonable to expect that the bones have been removed from a piece of fish advertised as boneless, it is not reasonable to expect perfection.

                                    1. re: Isolda

                                      see my post of March 30 that notes what a diner of years experfience might reasonably expact as opposed to a newbie

                                2. re: bagelman01

                                  I'm sorry, Bagelman. You've confused me. What is the difference between filet and boneless?
                                  As a youngster, I choked on a fishbone and, since then, with few exceptions, have never eaten fish.

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    Filet-remove a large flat piece from the skeleton. Boneless (as in salmon), after removing the filet from the skeleton, take a pliers or tweezers and pull all those odd (pin) bones that go through the flesh of the filet that are not left on the skeleton of the fish.

                                    I'm not much of a fish eater, but from my days in the catering and appetizing business (almost 40 years ago), I remember that salmon was much more likely to have remaining bones after fileting than fish such as cod or flounder.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      Bagelman, you've made my day (b'day, to be exact). I learned something I never knew: filet is not necessarily boneless. Until now filet always implied boneless. Knowing this, I'll probably still avoid fish (other than the exceptions) because the markets don't specify boneless; just filet of...........

                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                        First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                        Filet is one of those 'odd' words. It is a noun as in a fish or beef filet. It is a verb, as in to filet the fish. But fileting the fish generally just means removing the flesh from the skeleton (or vice versa). That's why I used salmon as an example, it's really common to find the pin bones in a filet of salmon, or a side of lox. We always warn the kids to be careful when eating salmon. In the kitchen I have a both a pair of tweezers and a needle nose pliers that get used to remove pin bones from salmon filets and pin feathers from chickens before cooking.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          Thanks, bagelman and, FWIW, today is our anniversary; 49 (tumultuous) years.
                                          As I mentioned below, most processers have equipment that can detect and remove the odd bone that is overlooked so tools in the kitchen should not be necessary.

                                          1. re: smartie

                                            and a belated Happy B'day to you, smartie

                                          2. re: mucho gordo

                                            Definitely correct on the filet not necessarily being boneless. The pin bones in salmon are a great example, and I would also never expect commercially-cleaned filets to be 'boneless". A proper fileting will miss most of the bones in most fish, but it can be hard to miss them all, especially if speed is important. When cleaning such fish as panfish, walley, bluefish, flounder and the like, I will almost always miss all of the bones, but that is because I am careful - otherwise the outermost bones of the ribcage are easily cut through with a good filet knife, leaving bones in the filet. When I was a youngster and we would have fresh fish for dinner, anyone finding a bone would take the opportunity to give a good-natured ribbing to the person(s) who cleaned the catch.

                                            1. re: Cheez62

                                              Most processing firms have electronic sensors that can spot bones or other bits that don't belong and can remove them.

                                        2. re: mucho gordo

                                          I've always understood a fish fillet * to be a slice cut vertically down from the backbone - so you'd usually get two, one from each side. Although usually served boneless, I wouldnt always expect to be.

                                          (* fillet - in the UK, we don't use the French spelling or pronounciation of "filet")

                                3. I'm always disappointed when I get served olives that DON'T have pits. Should I sue a restaurant that serves pitted olives for disappointing my expectations of quality? ;-)

                                  1. I'd be embarrassed and upset (at myself), but I'd know I was the dumb one.

                                    Awful part is that the plaintiff will probably get something, since the restaurant probably didn't have a warning on the menu.

                                    Most importantly... How was the dinner?

                                    1. I broke a wisdom tooth and partial bridge eating "4" specialty potato chips in Canada on Jan 11.
                                      My bill... $1537. My hope... the insurance co for the chip maker will pay for my dental bill if not shame on them and the bill (which is already paid in full by me) will be my responsibility. What was as hard as a rock in that bag? < no idea

                                      7 Replies
                                        1. re: iL Divo

                                          I've lost a crown while eating chicken that was cut Chinese style (cleaver right through the bones). I lost another eating a wine gum (extremely chewy candy) that was cold from spending the night in a cold car. My mother nearly broke a tooth once eating a date square that had a pit in it. Did we sue or try to get someone else to take responsibility for our dental bills? Nope. My mother grumbled about the date pit and complained to the person who sold it to her. That server showed complete indifference, which was annoying. She got a poor tip from us. That's it.

                                          Here's the best one, though: my (now) husband once went to a Subway and the server making his sub left a plastic knife inside his sandwich. He discovered it upon biting into the sandwich ... and the knife. No injury occurred. He joked for some time afterward that he probably could have cleaned up in a lawsuit, especially if he'd been injured in any way. He didn't bother. Now, had it been a sharp stainless steel knife and not a plastic butter knife, he might have taken it more seriously. To this day, the kid making the sub probably has no idea that he included a knife among the other toppings on that turkey sub.

                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                            That's a new one ! Honestly, sometimes the laughs you get out of something like that are worth more than anything. A friend and I were served a chicken bone in a basket of fries once at a pub and we laughed so hard that we cried (there was more to it than that, including the server's reaction, obviously - it was part of a running joke).

                                            My sister once found a large chicken bone shard in a salad sandwich at a chain once. Now that one could have hurt more than a tooth. She didn't sue however, but did bring it to their attention and got some coupons etc.

                                            I broke a tooth on a hard cheesie several years ago, that led to dental work, a horribly painful abscess and crown. But really, it was more about the health of my teeth to begin with at the time (old filling) than anything.

                                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                                              "Did we sue or try to get someone else to take responsibility for our dental bills? Nope. My mother grumbled about the date pit and complained to the person who sold it to her. That server showed complete indifference, which was annoying. She got a poor tip from us. That's it."
                                              ^^^uh huh^^^ (?) sorry missed your point

                                              1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                I once found a toothpick in a chicken salad sandwich. I'd gotten it to eat at my desk at work. I can't remember if I bit into it, or just happened to see it, but I mentioned it to the owner of the deli the next time I was in, so they could be more careful in the future.

                                                At another restaurant, I got a quiche type of thing to go. When I bit into it, there was a piece of packaging-type plastic in it. I took it out, saved it, and ate the rest of the item carefully. I took the baggie wih the plastic back to the restaurant, and the owner gave me a gift certificate for the next time. She seemed pretty embarassed.

                                                Both times, no injury occured, no harm was done, and I notified the restaurants so that they could keep an eye out for such things in the future. Do I know for a fact that it made a difference? No. However, they're both still in business, and I haven't seen any online reviews mentioning stray objects in food.

                                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                  We make pre-made sandwiches at work and I caught the name tag of a newbie in one of them (thankfully, before it reached a customer). Still don't know how THAT happened, and she was off sandwich duty!

                                                2. I am truly astounded by the reasons people sue. It would not surprise me at all if, one day in the near future, restaurants began requiring customers to sign disclaimers before allowing them to eat there. "I, the undersigned, understand that olives may contain pits and that fish may contain bones and that undercooked meat might make me ill..."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                    . . . and that if I do not understand that the whole artichoke is not meant to be eaten, I am not entitled to a tutorial by my server concerning how to eat such, especially if I blithely order one and devour it without directing a single question to my server indicating my complete ignorance concerning the consumption of said *spiky-tipped* vegetable.


                                                  2. Someone somewhere is willing to sue somebody for something.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                      And sometimes they win. Google the Stella Awards to see some of these.

                                                      1. re: PeterL

                                                        If you check "snopes" for some of the stella awards, it seems obvious that these awards are not thoroughly vetted.


                                                        just like on chowhound, don't believe every review you read.

                                                    2. Would someone sue if they found mercury in a piece of fish?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: beevod

                                                        If you're that worried about mercury, there are many types of fish you should avoid anyway!


                                                        1. re: Isolda

                                                          I found an entire thermometer

                                                        2. Maybe. But only to recover the costs involved in the dental treatment that we couldn't otherwise afford. $60,000 is ridiculous.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                                            Really? So nobody should be responsible for their own pain and suffering/costs. Why are so many things somebody else's fault? Olives have pits, therefore be careful when eating them. It would not occur to me to sue a restaurant for my dental work over olives. Maybe for metal in my lasagne, glass in my cheesecake, an olive pit in my mashed potato but not for something so obvious as an unpitted olive.

                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                              Okay, I can kind of see this, but not really. For instance, once my friend found a piercing in his burger. Gross right? He didn;t take a bite out of it, but if he had, and he had broken a tooth, then yeah, he would definitely be justified in suing for dental expenses, lost wages, hell, even pain and suffering.

                                                              But as smartie says, suing for a pit in the olive - which is *supposed* to be there, is like putting out a public announcement that you're a moron and is also, IMHO, a totally losing lawsuit and argument. I wouldn't (a) waste my time for (b) little to no possibility of financial gain in order to (c) alert my local community and possibly the national news to the fact that I'm an idiot.

                                                            2. Are Turkish Olives anything like Greek Olives? I'm only familiar with those oil cured black olives and they all have pits in them.

                                                              1. ...If I could. I am paranoid over any food with pits, hard stuff etc. but i was recently treated to shell frags in a hand pressed clam chowder at an Idaho restaurant. Really scared me. I won,t go near this dish again anywhere from anybody. Perhaps restaurants ought to menu or otherwise warn consumers about possible hidden dangers in their preps. But risks are "assumed" I believe and sadly facilities couldn,t be held liable. 'Know before you go' I think is the best preventative....just eat cautiously as much you can.

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: Pugchaser

                                                                  whereas I'd be delighted to find a shell fragment in my clam chowder, as to me it would indicate that there's at least one real clam in there somewhere.

                                                                  How do you handle your own cooking? Have you never missed an olive pit, a bone fragment, a fish bone, or a shell fragment?

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Not long ago I was summoned to the dining room of our restaurant, to find a stern-looking guest sitting at a table with his wife. In front of him is a cleaned plate that obviously at one point held one of our Pot Pies.

                                                                    He holds out his clenched hand and opens it to reveal a small piece of those tendons you find in Turkey Legs, bone-like but not actually bone. As I begin to stammer out an apology to him, bright red and hugely humiliated, he breaks into a huge grin and says, "I just wanted to say, Thank You. Now I know you use real Turkey! I'll be back!"

                                                                    And he slaps me on the back and shakes my hand and has been a regular ever since. We have the occasional complaint about "bones" in the pies, which we actually do a pretty good job of meticulously de-boning, but sometimes one slips through, and whenever this happens, I tell them this story.

                                                                    Not everyone thinks it's funny.

                                                                    I am seriously considering putting up a sign: "All our food is real. Some of it can kill you. Eat at your own risk."

                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                      He holds out his clenched hand and opens it to reveal a small piece of those tendons you find in Turkey Legs, bone-like but not actually bone. As I begin to stammer out an apology to him, bright red and hugely humiliated, he breaks into a huge grin and says, "I just wanted to say, Thank You. Now I know you use real Turkey! I'll be back!"

                                                                      I thought he was going to say....thanks for including toothpicks so I don't have to get up.

                                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                                        Believe it or not I actually said something along those lines to another guest once. She didn't find it too amusing.

                                                                        I'm learning that you can generally kid around with guys but you must take women seriously. As my wife would say, Duh.

                                                                        1. re: acgold7

                                                                          Phuck em...I guess they wouldn't like my Turkey Barley & Mushroom Soup either

                                                                      2. re: acgold7

                                                                        There's a banh mi shop that I go to often and they strip the chicken a bit too zealously. I often find cartilage in my sandwich, which doesn't bother me as I'm Chinese and there's really no part of the chicken that I haven't consumed. I can imagine they get plenty of complaints from Americans.

                                                                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                          I'm an American who isn't weirded out or grossed outby cartilage -- I know it's edible.

                                                                          A piece or two wouldn't faze me -- but I find it to be a chewy and unpleasant texture, so finding a lot of cartilage on a regular basis would be a prompt for me to find a restaurant that pays a little closer attention to the cleaning process, or isn't trying to stretch the chicken budget by using cartilage as filler.

                                                                  2. Quite a few years back, I broke a tooth biting down on something. (can't even remember what it was now)
                                                                    My dentist told me, "If the tooth is healthy, you can bite down on a rock & not do any real damage. That tooth was gonna break sooner or later....."

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: zippypinhead

                                                                      I broke a tooth on Christmas Day -- and have no idea on what; just realized I had a hole where there used to be a tooth.

                                                                      Who can I sue?

                                                                    2. I have been served: An entire broken glass in a basket of chips at a Mexican restaurant. A hard piece of plastic in a Caesar salad at a fancy place in town. I cut into a large pancake and there was spinach inside it. Dipping into my side of mayo revealed a piece of okra. Once a stray Frito was in my salad at another fancy-ish place - I kept asking the waiter if they served anything with Fritos in it before I would tell him why (thank goodness they did!) It would never occur to me to sue over any of these, but there was no injury.

                                                                      The glass was incredible - it looked intentional and/or comical, but we were just stopping while traveling and had never been in that city before. The look on the waiter's face was priceless.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                        I found several rubber bands in my fajitas several years ago, and the floor manager just happened to stop by right after I found them.

                                                                        I asked him if they'd had a rubber-band fight during the staff meeting that morning -- he blanched and stuttered "but how would you know that?"

                                                                        "Because the ammo is in my plate"

                                                                        Replaced the platter, comped dinner for all of us -- and thanked me for not being an ass about it. (I figured that at the temperature that those skillets attain, I probably didn't have much to worry about from a contamination standpoint)

                                                                        Assuming that it's not a grievous problem, and I have no reason to suspect it's intentional, I will always, always give them a chance to make it right.

                                                                        If I give them the chance to make it right and they screw *that* up, then I'm usually done.

                                                                      2. I only know NY, but you cannot sue for "naturally occurring" objects in food, like bones or pits. Not to say those 1-800 lawyers haven't tried anyway! But the person suing won't win, or so I've been told.

                                                                        1. Perhaps the restaurant could now provide de-pitted olives.

                                                                          1. Just this morning, I tossed a handful of walnuts into my oatmeal. Seconds later, chomped down on a bit of hard shell. Would never have thought of trying to sue the company. While I'd hope they screen thoroughly for walnut shells, bits are just going to get through any processing. Luckily, no dental breakage, though.

                                                                            1. I did crack a crown on an olive pit. I did not sue, and just had it replaced, but did have good dental insurance.


                                                                              1. Hard to imagine a rational judge/jury awarding much more than tooth repair costs.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                  not really -- take a look at recent awards.

                                                                                2. I broke a molar half off eating a Jordan almond a year ago. Made me mad, cost me $800- with dental insurance- and I haven't had a Jordan almond since, which breaks my heart because I really, really love them. But I'm generally better off not eating them anyway, since I'm powerless against them, I guess I won't sue Sprouts after all.

                                                                                  Actually, it never occurred to me.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                    My Mom broke her tooth once on a Good N Plenty I had just given her, luckily she didn't sue me though!