CANTON, Ohio — Stark County Judge James R. Unger heard arguments Thursday in a $5-million wrongful death suit filed by Etna Huberty, whose husband, James, killed 21 people and injured 15 others at a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., before he was shot and killed on July 18, 1984.
Unger said he would consider a request from attorneys for McDonald's and James Huberty's former employer, Babcock and Wilcox Co., to dismiss the suit.
Mrs. Huberty claims that the chemical monosodium glutamate, used in foods as a flavor intensifier, was in Chicken McNuggets her husband ate and it reacted with lead and cadmium that had built up in his system from 14 years of welding at Babcock & Wilcox, triggering his violent behavior.
Court documents, including a two-volume deposition from Mrs. Huberty, say the McNuggets theory originated with Robert W. Hall, a psychologist who described the idea in an academic paper titled "MSG Massacre?"
The coroner who conducted Huberty's autopsy found concentrations of lead and cadmium in his body. Mrs. Huberty alleges the metals caused hallucinations, convulsions and kidney failure.
"To fully appreciate the absurdity of this claim, it is necessary to examine the life of the Huberty family," said an attorney for McDonald's, Louis Boettler.
Boettler argued that the real explanation for Huberty's violence was a long history of mental problems detailed in Mrs. Huberty's own deposition. She described a troubled childhood in which Huberty was abused, then abandoned by his mother. She said he had a violent temper and a fascination with guns.