DOCUMENT: Florida, Revolting

IHOP Fingered In Gross Lawsuit

Diner was served salad with severed piece of cook's digit

Ronald Neilly

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IHOP Fingered In Gross Lawsuit

MARCH 3--Ronald Neilly was working at an International House of Pancakes in Hallandale, Florida one Sunday morning when he accidentally cut off a fingertip while preparing an order. Neilly, 35, was immediately rushed to a local hospital by Department of Fire Rescue workers. But the severed fingertip--nail intact--could not be located by his fellow kitchen employees.

Until, of course, it soon turned up in the fried chicken green salad being consumed by Nadine Robinson, 42, who was having brunch with her family after attending services at Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale. The severed fingertip can be seen in this police photo.

The repulsive IHOP episode, which has not been previously reported, occurred in November 2008 and has resulted in a lawsuit brought by Robinson and her family against the restaurant chain and Neilly (TSG learned of the incident when IHOP lawyers last month filed a federal court motion seeking to remove the case from a Broward County court).

Robinson's negligence complaint alleges that the restaurant served her a "freshly severed finger tip that contained both freshly cut human flesh and blood." IHOP, she charges, did not cease operating after Neilly was injured while preparing her salad, adding that the eatery's actions exposed her and her teenage daughter Ashley (who shared some of the salad) to a variety of possible health problems.

After Hallandale cops were summoned to the restaurant, Robinson told them that she had bitten into a piece of salad that "had a rubbery texture." After spitting out the piece and inspecting it, Robinson "noticed that the unknown piece in her salad was the end of a finger tip which also had a piece of a finger nail attached to it." When police spoke to IHOP manager Robert Clarke, he told them of the Neilly accident, adding that he "did keep the plate and piece of finger in the back office."

Two police representatives later responded to IHOP and photographed the remains of Robinson's meal, with Neilly's fingertip at the plate's center. The police evidence photos were provided after TSG filed a public records request with police. A copy of the Hallandale Police Department's incident report is here. Neilly is pictured at left.

A subsequent inspection of the eatery by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resulted in the issuance of a "Serious" violation due to IHOP not requiring cooks "preparing food with knives in the kitchen area to use appropriate hand protection when exposed to hazards such as severe cuts, lacerations or punctures."

Robinson's lawsuit, a copy of which you'll find here, only cites damages in excess of $15,000. However, in a claim letter sent last year to an IHOP insurance carrier, Robinson's lawyers demanded an $18 million settlement payment to Robinson and her husband, and $2.5 million for the couple's 14-year-old daughter. IHOP has yet to answer the complaint, apart from seeking last month to have the matter removed to federal court. (16 pages)