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HUNTINGTON PARK : Man Loses Lawsuit Against McDonald's

December 18, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

A jury found last week that a Huntington Park McDonald's outlet did not serve contaminated food to an HIV-positive man, who claimed a bad sandwich from the restaurant lowered his immune system and led to full-blown AIDS.

The Los Angeles Superior Court jury ruled 9-to-3 that the McDonald's franchise at 2584 E. Slauson Ave. did not serve Arvin Peterson, 49, a McRib sandwich contaminated with shigella bacteria.

Peterson's attorney, Natasha Roit, said she would seek to retry the case since the jury, which deliberated two weeks, deadlocked on two other claims in the suit: whether the restaurant violated state health and safety codes and if it destroyed evidence before trial. The evidence in question was related to whether one or more McDonald's employees was sick with shigella during the time they handled the food Peterson consumed.

"This case is far from over," Roit said.

Attorneys representing the McDonald's franchise declined to comment.

Peterson, a former Huntington Park resident now living in Seattle, claimed that he contracted shigella after eating the McRib sandwich on March 9, 1992. The suit, which sought unspecified damages, said that Peterson vomited and suffered severe diarrhea after eating the sandwich, french fries, ice cream and a soft drink.

Peterson was taken the next day by ambulance to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center emergency room, where he was diagnosed with the bacterial infection, which can be transmitted through contaminated food.

While hospitalized, Peterson suffered heart fibrillations and his T-cell count--which reflects the health of the body's immune system--dropped from between 500 and 600 to 160, the suit said.

A T-cell count below 200 indicates that a person has AIDS. Peterson's attorney said he was hospitalized for several days during his illness.

Peterson did not appear in court due to medical reasons, his attorney said.

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