The woman who says she bit into a human finger while eating chili at a Wendy’s restaurant has a history of making claims against corporations, including another fast-food chain, a former employer and General Motors.
Anna Ayala, 39, who hired a San Jose attorney to represent her in the Wendy’s case, has been involved in several legal battles in the Bay Area, according to court records.
Speaking at the front door of her home in suburban Las Vegas on Friday, Ayala declined to provide details of her litigious past. She acknowledged, however, that her family received a settlement several years ago after her daughter, Genesis, now 13, was sickened at an El Pollo Loco restaurant in Las Vegas. “That was something very different,” Ayala said.
El Pollo Loco officials had no immediate comment Friday.
Ayala alleged that police were out to get her and were unnecessarily rough as they executed a search warrant at her home Wednesday.
“Lies, lies, lies, that’s all I am hearing,” she said in an interview with Associated Press. “They should look at Wendy’s. What are they hiding? Why are we being victimized again and again?”
Among the California cases Ayala was involved in was a 1998 sexual harassment lawsuit she brought against San Jose-based La Oferta Review Newspaper Inc., seeking $500,000.
Ayala alleged that her boss at the bilingual news weekly brought out wine, exposed himself and tried to block her exit by grabbing her hips during her first day as a receptionist. She filed a police report on Dec. 4, 1998, and a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The case was settled before an arbitration hearing in June 2002.
Two years later, Ayala sued General Motors Corp., Goodyear Tire Corp. and a San Jose car dealership, alleging that a defective car caused an accident. That suit was dismissed after Ayala fired her attorney and failed to show up in court or submit paperwork, court records show.
It’s not clear from court records whether Ayala received any money from the suits against her former employer or the auto-related companies.
Police are still investigating how a 1 1/2 -inch-long fingertip ended up in Ayala’s bowl of chili at a San Jose Wendy’s on March 22.
Ayala said she and her family were “disrespected like terrorists” when police served the warrant at her home this week. She said officers held guns to her head and on her daughter, who she said was injured when officers threw the girl to the ground.
Ayala said Friday she had not yet filed a claim against Wendy’s.
Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s International Inc., said Wendy’s restaurants in San Jose have suffered from declining sales. “Obviously, the store has been down significantly,” he said. “This has been an ordeal for all of us. Hopefully, there will be a resolution soon.”
Wendy’s has maintained that the finger did not enter the chili via its ingredients. The company has set up a toll-free hotline and offered a $50,000 reward for verifiable information leading to positive identification of the finger.
“It’s very important to our company to find out the truth in this incident,” Tom Mueller, Wendy’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Investigators would not say what they were looking for in Ayala’s house. Ken Bono, a family friend who lives at the home, said officers searched freezers, a picnic cooler and the belongings of an aunt who used to live there.
Bono acknowledged that he made up a story earlier this week about the finger coming from a dead aunt because the family was being hounded by reporters.