Rep. Dennis Kucinich sues House cafeteria over olive pit in sandwich

by Walter Olson on January 26, 2011

He bit into a sandwich wrap in 2008 and encountered an olive pit, and now he wants $150,000. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wonkette, Memeorandum]

P.S. Gawker finds video taken five days later on the House floor in which the Ohio representative “looks fine and talks normal” notwithstanding the “serious and permanent dental and oral injuries requiring multiple oral and dental surgeries.” And Daniel Fisher at Forbes:

No indication why Kucinich mulled this lawsuit for three years before filing it…..* The lawsuit alleges negligence and breach of implied warranty.

*Commenter “Mattie” says the SOL in DC for this type of suit is indeed three years, though it would be one year for some other torts.

Who besides the People’s Congressman would be willing to name America’s olive pit safety crisis and call out the Big Pit interests responsible?

P.P.S.: As someone was asking, wasn’t generous government-furnished health insurance — like the kind available to Members of Congress — supposed to cut down on the need for personal injury suits? And Matthew Heller at OnPoint News finds some precedent for the suit.

And further: That was fast, Kucinich says he’s settled the suit (Jan. 28).

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1 BG 01.26.11 at 4:46 pm

Dennis has to keep his name in the news because rumor in Ohio is that he will be district-less due to loss of 2 congressional seats over the new census numbers. He would likely be pitted against Betty Sutton (who has been mentioned on Rick Woldenberg’s blog regarding the CPSIA) or Marcia Fudge in the 2012 primary.

Good Job Dennis!

2 Smart Dude 01.26.11 at 4:46 pm

Dennis Kucinich has always been, in every way that it is possible, the pits.

3 sheldon toplitt 01.26.11 at 5:04 pm

Beyond the SOL issue, an olive pit is forseeable (“natural” as we lawyers are wont to say) and not a foreign object like a piece of glass or hunk of metal in a sandwich. DK’s best chance is that the olive pit is probably half as large as his head.

4 mojo 01.26.11 at 5:44 pm

Clownery on the Cuyahoga?

5 Mattie 01.26.11 at 6:03 pm

Pretty sure Forbes is wrong about the statute of limitations. They cite to 12-301(4), which covers “libel, slander, assault, battery, mayhem, wounding, malicious prosecution, false arrest or false imprisonment.”

It’s actually a three-year statute for personal injuries.

6 gitarcarver 01.26.11 at 7:12 pm

At least he didn’t find the olive pit in a sandwich while trespassing in someone else’s home and falling off a ladder.

7 Mike 01.26.11 at 7:17 pm

Is there any claim for loss of consortium?

I’m just worried that his wife might need comforting or companionship. Let me know.

8 John Burgess 01.26.11 at 10:17 pm

@Mike: Got pix?

9 jpe 01.27.11 at 7:41 am

@ sheldon: No it’s not. It’s a food product, but it’s no more foreseeable in a sandwich than, say, a bone.

10 Mr.RVS 01.27.11 at 8:47 am

This is what’s wrong w/ America and it’s embarrassing that this suit is coming from a congressman. Suck it up Dennis. Things happen. You have dental coverage so get your tooth fixed and quit trying to make $ on a simple accident.

11 Jack Wilson 01.27.11 at 8:59 am

What is the $150K based on?

12 Bob Lipton 01.27.11 at 9:01 am

It’s easily divisible by three for his lawyer.


13 redneek 01.27.11 at 9:04 am

I think I will send him a olive pit, just for laughs. I wonder if that is illegal?

14 Frank 01.27.11 at 10:05 am

“contained dangerous substances, namely an olive pit, that a consumer would not reasonably expect to find in the final product served.”

“Said sandwich wrap was unwholesome and unfit for human consumption in that it was presented to contain pitted olives”

My recollection is that with such products as cherries or olives which naturally contain pits, it has been found by courts not to be unreasonable to find pits in the end product even if it has been advertised (presented) as containing the pitted fruit. Again my recollection, but I thought it has been found to be unreasonable to expect that all traces of pit were successfully removed.

Like shell in crab meat – one is buying meat not shell, but you’re a sap if you don’t pick for shell.

15 GregS 01.27.11 at 11:07 am

I guess this is Kucinich’s way of announcing that he isn’t planning to run for President in 2012, since this single action has rendered him unelectable. I mean, if you can’t cope with an olive pit in your sandwich, how can you be qualified to handle the leadership of the entire United States?

16 Jason Barney 01.27.11 at 11:10 am

My working knowledge in this area of claims is the “consumer expectation test”. That is, can a typical consumer reasonably expect pits in olives, even those advertised at pitted? Probably. However, when you put olives in a sandwich (as opposed to, for instance, serving them directly from a can) I believe the answer is a clear “no”. No consumer reasonably expects a pit in a sandwich any more than one expects chicken bones in a chicken salad sandwich.

17 Peter 01.27.11 at 11:22 am

Even if he were to win his $150K, can it be worth it, considering the extensive negative publicity he is now getting? Is this the kind of “sound” judgement we want in higher level elected officials?

18 captnhal 01.27.11 at 3:37 pm

“Even if he were to win his $150K, can it be worth it, considering the extensive negative publicity he is now getting? Is this the kind of “sound” judgement we want in higher level elected officials?”

Except for this web site and its links it doesn’t seem to me that this story is getting a whole lot of publicity. I haven’t heard it mentioned anywhere else. As DK has no chance of winning his party’s nomination in 2012 or ever, I don’t see that his opponents will bother to make an issue of this.

19 CarLitGuy 01.27.11 at 6:25 pm

Saw it mentioned today on the news while grabbing some quick calories at the local Taco Bell. Manager there claimed ignorance of the proposed class action filed against them. My order number was similar to prior visits at about the same time. Doesn’t appear that their business has been affected by the claims, though “Taco Bell – 35% beef?” is apparently moving up in search frequency, according to my home page…

Its a strangely ignorant world, in spite of all the sources of news and/or gossip now available to us.

20 Doug 01.28.11 at 11:53 am

Really, this seems to picking up steam around the net.

21 John L 01.28.11 at 5:29 pm

Would this clear things up?

22 Jason Barney 01.28.11 at 8:04 pm

I’m surprised to learn that Kucinich claims no costs were paid by any health plan and that he had no dental insurance. As a federal employee I would suspect those benefits would be available. And, if the injury occurred at an employer-sponsored cafeteria on a typical meal break I would expect workers’ compensation benefits to apply. I’m aware collateral source rule applies–I’m just saying it seems odd that he claims he had no other way to offset the costs he incurred.

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