Bloody fingertip found in salad at Applebee’s in Paso Robles, woman claims

A bloody fingertip was found in a salad at this Applebee’s in Paso Robles, according to a claim filed by an Atascadero woman.
A bloody fingertip was found in a salad at this Applebee’s in Paso Robles, according to a claim filed by an Atascadero woman. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A pregnant Atascadero woman says she found a piece of bloody fingertip in her salad at Applebee’s in Paso Robles last month and has filed a claim against the restaurant chain.

Cathleen Martin and her family visited the Applebee’s restaurant on the 2300 block of Theatre Drive on Dec. 20, said Martin’s attorney, Eric Traut of Santa Ana. Martin ordered the Chinese chicken salad, Traut said, and found the small slice of a fingertip inside — but not before she, her husband and their young child had each eaten from the dish.

“It was so gross,” Martin said in a news release sent by Traut’s firm. “I’m on pins and needles worrying about what my family might have been exposed to.”

Martin said she was particularly alarmed because she is expecting her second child in March.

Upon finding the fingertip, the family says it notified restaurant management, who confirmed the fingertip belonged to an employee there. A letter sent to the family from Applebee’s counsel nine days later said management, by law, could not require the cook to undergo any medical tests.

The claim, which is the first step in filing a civil lawsuit, seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress, medical expenses for testing and lost income.

Tom Linafelt, media spokesman for Applebee’s Grill and Bar, forwarded a statement from Alan Knapp, area director of the franchisee, Apple MidCal. The statement said the business regretted that the Martins experienced the “unacceptable” incident at one of its restaurants.

“We take matters involving the health and safety of our guests and team members seriously,” the statement reads. “Accordingly, we immediately investigated and determined that an accident did occur in our kitchen. We discussed the matter with the Martins while still at our restaurant, shared our sincere apologies, and have continued to speak with Mrs. Martin in an effort to address her concerns.

“Additionally, the team member involved volunteered to undergo screening in an effort to provide the peace of mind Mrs. Martin seeks. Further, we are retraining our team members on our safety protocols and will take any necessary actions to prevent anything like this from occurring again.”

On Thursday, Traut said his clients have all undergone medical testing since the incident. He said his firm is in communication with the chain’s corporate office, which he said has been cooperative.

This is not the first time Traut has represented a person who found an undesirable item in restaurant fare. In 2009, he represented a couple who discovered a used condom in their French onion soup at a Mission Viejo Claim Jumper, The OC Weekly reported.

“A body part in a food item is typically very rare. More often, we see calls for foreign objects in food, things that break teeth, cut throats,” said Traut, noting one past case where a stainless steel screw from machinery was found in an ice cream sandwich and caused injury to the consumer. “It makes your skin crawl.”

Asked about past cases of people planting items in food in order to fraudulently make a quick buck, Traut called that “rare” and said restaurant management had already confirmed the employee injured himself while making the salad.

Matt Fountain: 805-781-7909, @MattFountain1