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Bacteria in Chicken Sandwich Killed Woman, Family Alleges

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The children of an 82-year-old woman who died a day after eating a McDonald’s chicken sandwich filed a lawsuit this week against the fast-food chain, alleging that bacteria from the chicken caused their mother’s death, attorneys for the family said.

Gladys Fuller’s daughter, Karen Fontes, had stopped at a McDonald’s on her way home to Mission Viejo on Jan. 19, 1995, to buy chicken nuggets for her son and a sandwich for her mother, Fontes’ attorney said.

Fuller died about 8:30 p.m. the next day at an area hospital after becoming ill, attorney Ted Anderson said.

The autopsy report states that Fuller died of natural causes and suffered from other illnesses that included a heart disease. It also listed conditions that the suit alleges were the result of salmonella poisoning.

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Fontes, a nurse, said her mother had high blood pressure.

“She did have some problems, but that’s not what killed her,” Fontes said.

Officials from McDonald’s Corp. did not return phone calls. Sharon MacDonald, owner of the Mission Viejo McDonald’s where the chicken sandwich was purchased, declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said the restaurant follows strict procedures in cooking all meats.

“We follow guidelines that include a specified temperature and time at which to cook chicken,” MacDonald said. “We cook chicken properly.”

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The suit was filed by Fontes and her three siblings, Jo Anne Simonsen, Patricia Albrezzi and Richard Fuller, and seeks an unspecified amount of money. It alleges that negligence in preparing the sandwich caused Fuller’s death.

Attorneys for the family said that Fontes had asked a McDonald’s cashier to prepare her mother’s sandwich without lettuce, and believes that the chicken was not cooked properly because it was rushed as a special order.

She still can’t fathom the events of that day a year later, she said.

“I wanted to be super nice that day and take special time and get her a sandwich without the lettuce,” Fontes said. “She ended up dying. . . . This never should have happened.”

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