A horrified Wisconsin man is suing Olive Garden for allegedly serving him a rat’s foot in a bowl of minestrone.
Thomas Howie, 54, says he was at dinner with two friends when he made the stomach-turning discovery – at the eatery’s Warren, Michigan, location on March 11.
He claimed he felt a sharp object ‘stab’ his cheek – and was left horrified when he spit out the spoonful.
The culprit, he said, was a fur-covered claw – which he immediately photographed and showed to staffers.
But he said employees blew him off and even mocked him at one point – with one allegedly telling him: ‘We don’t serve meat in our minestrone.’
He filed a police report and has now filed a lawsuit demanding damages of more than $75,000. Olive Garden denies the claims.
‘I took a bite, felt something stab the inside of my cheek, it felt like a needle,’ Howie recalled of the ordeal to Fox affiliate WITI Monday, in a sit-down interview with his attorney. Days before, the pair filed suit in Macomb Circuit Court.
‘I lunged and choked myself almost,’ he continued, claiming the claw lacerated the inside of his mouth.
‘So when I hacked it up and realized, into a napkin, it was… My stomach just heaved, I threw up right in the restaurant. I was mortified.’
After he vomited on the restaurant floor, one of his friends asked for a manager – who allegedly responded by trying to take the dish away, the suit claims.
A second staffer, also believed to be a manager, is then said to have offered the group jokes and snide comments instead of a solution, according to the suit.
That employee at one point quipped: ‘That’s funny. We don’t even put meat in the minestrone,’ the suit states.
It goes on to assert the foot – which Howie has been keeping in a freezer for months as ‘evidence’ – left a cut in Howie’s mouth, spurring him to call cops before rushing to an urgent care facility.
The suit, which was filed on August 18, goes on to state that officers arrived at the Olive Garden location to investigate, and that several gagged upon seeing the ‘evidence’.
A police report stated that first responders remarked that the foot ‘appeared to be chewed.’
After leaving the report with officers, Howie sought medical treatment at a nearby urgent care facility, the suit states.
It was there he received a tetanus shot and was prescribed antibiotics for the cut on his cheek, the lawsuit claims – adding that a physician identified the object as a rat’s leg.
Howie also received a much-needed mouth-rinse after chewing the unsanctioned appetizer – but adds he still has a bad taste in his mouth over the ordeal.
His suit and attorneys state that he struggled to sleep and eat in the days after the incident, and experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and severe depression.
He and his attorney Daniel Gwinn add that months later, he still has trouble eating meat and trusting food served by others – and has been turned off to restaurants completely by the experience.
‘The thought of even going to a restaurant right now is just revolting,’ he told Fox 6, adding that he has since suffered a stroke and requires ongoing medical care.
‘I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t believe this was happening, it was devastating.’
Olive Garden, meanwhile, spoke out against the claims aired in Howie’s lawsuit on Tuesday – as Gwinn told several outlets that he is hopeful the food giant will settle out of court.
They claim they enacted a health inspection immediately after receiving word of Howie’s claims back in March, and found no evidence of any rats being or having been at the location.
In a statement, they called the Wisconsin man’s allegations dubious. ‘We have no reason to believe there is any validity to this claim.’
Howie’s lawsuit – which seeks damages for ‘tangible and intangible harm’ for mental anguish and emotional distress wrought by the ordeal – is ongoing.
The incident harks back to a similar one in New York that also occurred in March, in which a couple accused a popular Manhattan restaurant of leaving a dead rat in their soup.
Eunice Lucero-Lee and husband Jason Lee proceeded to follow suit as well, against since closed Gammeeok in Midtown Manhattan, while also posting shocking video and photos of the meal as supposed proof.
The videos quickly went viral – and the 24-hour eatery located on 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues was promptly closed by the Health Department pending an investigation.
Months later, the eatery remains closed, and the lawsuit is still ongoing.
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