A Dallas County man is suing Panda Express, alleging he ingested shards of broken glass in his meal.
Randy Hartley, a 51-year-old Des Moines firefighter, is suing the California-based restaurant chain in U.S. District Court, alleging negligence.
Hartley alleges that on January 27 of this year, he visited the Panda Express at 1580 Valley West Drive in West Des Moines.
While there, he bought two entrees – beef with broccoli and chicken breast with green beans with a side of fried rice and chow mein. He took the food home and, according to his trial, he had consumed most of his meal when he bit down on a shard of jagged glass about the size of a quarter, chipping his tooth.
He then called the Panda Express, who offered to exchange his meal but gave no explanation for the drink. Fearing the restaurant’s “dismissive” attitude could hurt other customers, Hartey says he inspected the uneaten portion of his meal and found “countless small shards of glass”.
Because he ordered “crunchy” green beans and broccoli, “he reasonably attributed” the crunch of all the shards of glass already eaten to the texture of the vegetables, the lawsuit says.
Hartley says he then received a follow-up call from a Panda Express agent or representative, who told him she had contacted the West Des Moines restaurant and ordered it to close immediately. She also promised to compensate Hartley for all medical expenses, according to the lawsuit.
The woman then texted Hartley and reportedly said the shards of glass came from a “broken appliance above the entrances”, presumably in the kitchen food preparation area.
Two days later, Hartley claims, he began experiencing intense abdominal cramps and began passing blood, which a doctor attributed to the drink he had ingested. Over the next three weeks, Hartley claims, he experienced bloating, nausea, intestinal cramps, bloody stools and severe diarrhea. He also needed dental work to fix the chipped tooth and another cracked tooth.
In his lawsuit, Hartley alleges that he lost 15 pounds while trying to avoid causing further irritation to his gastrointestinal tract and is now “reluctant to consume foods at well-known establishments” of fear that his meals will be contaminated.
Panda Express has yet to file a response to the allegations, which were first made in Polk County District Court last month before the case went to federal court. Panda Express lawyer Philip Burian declined to comment on the case.
The Panda Express restaurant was inspected by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals on January 21 of this year, six days before Hartley purchased his meal. At that time, inspectors found no deficiencies, and the restaurant was not cited for any serious risk factor violations or violations related to good retail practices.
The previous lawsuit was dismissed
In 2015, Tammy Jo Barton of Polk County sued the Panda Express located in the Valley West mall in West Des Moines, alleging that in January of that year she and her daughter ate at the restaurant and the noodles of her daughter had been contaminated by a wire from a brush used to clean kitchen utensils.
The girl allegedly choked on the yarn and then fell ill after ingesting it. Panda Express did not file a response to the lawsuit and the case was dismissed two months later, with no indication as to whether a settlement was involved.