A Michigan man is suing Olive Garden, alleging that he found a rat’s foot in a bite of minestrone soup.
According to the complaint, filed Friday in Macomb County against the restaurant and an LLC in Michigan called Olive Garden Holdings, Thomas Howie went out to dinner with friends in March at a restaurant in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.
Howie, who lives in nearby Oakland County, ordered minestrone soup, according to the lawsuit, then felt a stabbing pain from a sharp object that hooked in his cheek as he tried to swallow a spoonful.
When he spat the food into a napkin, the complaint says, he saw a hairy, clawed rodent foot, which prompted him to vomit.
The suit alleges that an Olive Garden employee denied that a rat’s foot could have been in the soup and commented, “That’s funny. We don’t even put meat in minestrone.”
An Olive Garden spokesperson told NBC News the company has “no reason to believe there is any validity to this claim.”
After the incident, Howie sought medical treatment at an urgent care center for a bleeding cut in his mouth, according to the lawsuit. A doctor gave him a shot to protect against tetanus and diphtheria, prescribed antibiotics and gave Howie a mouthwash typically used to treat gingivitis, the complaint says.
Howie and his lawyers are seeking damages upward of $25,000 for both the physical injury and “mental anguish and emotional distress,” the lawsuit says.
“He is disturbed, and he still has lingering effects,” said Daniel Gwinn, one of the attorneys representing Howie.
Howie still feels an aversion to eating meat and struggles to dine at any restaurants where he cannot see the food being prepared, according to the lawsuit. In the days following the incident, the complaint adds, he continued to vomit and felt unable to eat anything but plain crackers.
Olive Garden said that based on a photo of the rat foot, it does not appear to have been cooked or taken on the coloring of the soup, and also looks larger than the restaurant’s soup spoons.
The company added that it has requested the foot from Howie and his attorneys for forensic examination, but they have not provided it.
Gwinn said in response that Olive Garden’s comments about the photo are “arguments reserved for Court,” and that the specimen can be made available for inspection during the case’s discovery process.
Two days after the incident, the Macomb County Health Department visited the Olive Garden location to inspect it, according to a report that an Olive Garden spokesperson provided to NBC News. Health department employees found no evidence of rodents in the restaurant during their visit, the report said, and it noted that pest control specialists who visited on the day of the incident didn’t find any either.
Managers at the Olive Garden location told health department inspectors that they had discarded the batch of soup after Howie said he found a rat’s foot, according to the report.
“Managers have no idea how this could have gotten into the food,” the report says. “They have a process that is followed closely for each batch of soup that is made.”
Gwinn said his legal team has attempted to reach a settlement with Olive Garden on Howie’s behalf but has been unsuccessful.
“He is upset about the response that he has received from the Olive Garden, which is basically no response,” Gwinn said. “He hasn’t gotten an apology.”