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Speaking of national media hoaxes, today’s San Jose Mercury News profiles the post-incarceration life of Anna Ayala. The digital pioneer is divorced from co-conspirator Jaime Plascencia, who is still in prison. Ayala’s greatest trauma from her four years in prison (out of her nine-year sentence) seems to be that everyone called her the Finger Lady. She’s permanently banned from Wendy’s, so she’ll miss out on the Baconator.


Remember that the reason anti-reformers justify Stella Liebeck’s infamous hot coffee lawsuit against McDonald’s is because McDonald’s was allegedly the only one selling coffee hot enough to burn? The family of a Dallas Cowboys coach has hired an attorney to sue McDonald’s over allegedly tainted food. Here’s how Jeff Carlton of the AP describes him:

Cecil W. Casterline, the Haley’s lawyer, has previously sued Whataburger and Wendy’s on behalf of clients allegedly scalded by coffee.

Earlier: Starbucks; Burger King; Dunkin’ Donuts; Starbucks; Starbucks; an Indiana gas station and coffeemaker manufacturer; and McDonald’s again and again. (Update: also Stony Brook University Hospital cafeteria, and Starbucks again.) All hot coffee burns. That’s why even small children know not to spill it on themselves, and why most courts hold it’s not actionable when one spills hot coffee on oneself.


“A group of illegal immigrants who worked for Wendy’s International Inc. is suing the restaurant chain because the company fired them after discovering it had missed a deadline for joining a federal program that would have helped them attain legal status.” (Rasha Madkour, AP/Houston Chronicle, Oct. 6).

More: the restaurant company blames a series of “mistakes made by others” that began before it bought the Cafe Express chain. In particular, Houston-based business law firm Boyar & Miller failed to take steps needed to enroll workers in the program. Commenter David Schwartz points out:

It might be worth noting that the employees *paid* to partipicate in the program. Surely if I pay my employer for legal services and I don’t get them, either my employer or their law firm is at fault, no?

Isn’t missing a filing deadline a classic example of attorney malpractice?


Chili finger duo sentenced

by Walter Olson on January 19, 2006

Fickle finger of fate, cont’d: dissatisfied Wendy’s customer Anna Ayala drew a nine-year sentence while Jaime Plascencia, her boyfriend and the procurer of the severed digit, drew twelve years. “The two pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to file a false insurance claim and attempted grand theft with damages exceeding $2.5 million.” (“Chili Finger Couple Get Stiff Sentences”, AP/NBC San Diego, Jan. 18). Our previous coverage: Apr. 8, Apr. 9, Apr. 13, Apr. 20, Apr. 22, Apr. 27, May 16, Sept. 10.

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Anna Ayala and husband Jaime Placencia, the couple “accused of conspiring to put a human finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili[,] pleaded guilty today in a Santa Clara County courtroom.” (San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 9). See May 18, May 16, etc.

“The Las Vegas man whose severed fingertip ended up in a cup of Wendy’s chili gave his mangled digit to a co-worker to settle a $50 debt — but had no idea it would be used in an alleged scheme to swindle the fast-food chain, the man’s mother said Tuesday.” (Alan Gathright and Meredith May, “Worker gave his finger to settle $50 debt”, San Francisco Chronicle, May 18)(see May 16, etc.).

San Jose police say the finger that Anna Ayala says she found in a bowl of Wendy’s chili (Apr. 27, Apr. 22, etc.) has now been identified; it belonged to a co-worker of her husband, James Plascencia, who lost it in the tailgate of a truck in an on-the-job accident. Authorities believe it then fell into the possession of Mr. Plascencia. (Dan Reed, Linda Goldston and Chuck Carroll, “The jig is up”, San Jose Mercury News, May 14; “Worker: Finger found in chili severed in tailgate”, AP/CNN, May 15).

Live from Wendy’s

by Walter Olson on April 27, 2005

Anne Haight is photoblogging the scene of the finger incident (Apr. 25)(via Instapundit)(see Apr. 22, etc.)

Anna Ayala was arrested late last night, and San Jose police will hold a press conference at 1 this afternoon to announce charges–bad timing for Wendy’s, since this means that the exoneration from a month of bad publicity from a finger supposedly found in its chili that has substantially hurt its sales in California and Las Vegas will take place in the Friday evening news cycle. Previous entries: Apr. 9 and Apr. 20.

There are ways, claims Mary Roach in the San Francisco Chronicle, channelling Walter Sobchak. (“Fingering the finger”, Apr. 18 (via Romenesko)). “I would put good money on the digit hailing from someplace other than the hand of a meat or tomato or onion processor who works in a plant that processes ingredients for Wendy’s. People who work in processing plants do not have long, well-groomed fingernails. Long nails are against the rules in these plants.” Scott Herhold of the San Jose Mercury News is reminded of a 1987 hoax involving a finger that wasn’t. (“1987 finger mystery just a lot of tripe”, Apr. 17). Earlier entries: Apr. 9 and link therein.

Wendy’s finger lady

by Walter Olson on April 13, 2005

She’s dropping her plan to sue the fast-food chain, following all the skeptical attention (AP/CNN, Apr. 13)(see Apr. 8, Apr. 9). And the Recorder of San Francisco (Justin Scheck, Mar. 31) has a roundup of icky foreign objects found, or claimed to have been found, in food.

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Finger-pointing II

by Ted Frank on April 9, 2005

The mystery of the San Jose Wendy’s chili finger deepens, as police execute a search warrant for Anna Ayala’s Las Vegas home, and Ayala claims new litigable injuries from the search. The local newspaper has four different reporters investigating. (Alan Gathright, Dave Murphy, Maria Alicia Gaura, “Police search home of woman who found finger”, SF Chronicle, Apr. 8; Ryan Kim, Dave Murphy and Alan Gathright, “Finger-finder has history of legal battles”, SF Chronicle, Apr. 9; “Woman Who Found Finger In Chili May Sue”, Good Morning America, Mar. 28). Earlier entry: Apr. 8. See also the Snopes page on the Pepsi-can syringes of 1993.

Remarkably, the media coverage never suggested that some skepticism might be warranted regarding a finding of a finger in chili until the execution of a search warrant seventeen days later. The media was similarly suckered by the tale of a juice bottle supposedly containing a human penis back in 2001.

Finger pointing

by Walter Olson on April 8, 2005

“The woman who claims she bit into a human finger while eating chili at a Wendy’s restaurant has a history of filing lawsuits – including a claim against another fast-food restaurant in Nevada.” (Ken Ritter, “Woman who claimed to find finger at Wendy’s has litigious history”, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, Apr. 8)(via Malkin)