Warren, Mich. — An Oakland County man is suing Olive Garden for more than $25,000 after, he claims, he found a rat’s foot in a bowl of minestrone soup at a Detroit branch of the restaurant chain. Olive Garden denies it.
Thomas Howie, 54, filed the suit after visiting the eatery with some friends between 6 and 6:30 p.m. on March 11.
“I felt something stab me in the mouth, and I wasn’t sure — the first thought was a needle,” said Howie.
According to the suit, when he tried to swallow, he realized an object was hooked to the inside of his cheek. Howie said he threw up at the booth.
“Regurgitated and leaned over to the side and found the wall. Yeah, once I realized that that thing was in my mouth and I was chewing,” Howie said.
He then spit out the object and realized it was a rat’s hairy and clawed leg when he looked at his napkin. Seeing the leg caused him to vomit, he said.
One of his friends asked for a manager and when one stopped at the table, he said he didn’t know what he could do and tried to take the rat’s foot away, according to the suit.
A second employee, also believed to be a manager, came to the table and commented, “That’s funny. We don’t even put meat in the minestrone.”
Howie then said he called the Warren Police Department and later visited urgent care.
Police gagged when they saw the scene, Howie told CBS News Detroit.
“I went to the doctors and got a tetanus shot and some antibiotic mouth rinse,” Howie said.
The lawsuit says Howie got little sleep that night and in the days following the incident, he felt nauseated, had diarrhea and felt like he couldn’t eat anything except crackers.
In the weeks and months after, he suffered from increased anxiety and depression, felt like he couldn’t eat meat and stopped going to restaurants unless he could see the food being prepared.
An inspection by the health department didn’t happen until two days after the incident.
However, an Olive Garden spokesperson said an inspection was conducted shortly after and no violations were found, adding that the branch never had issues with rats.
“We have no reason to believe there is any validity to this claim,” said Rich Jeffers, a spokesperson for Olive Garden, who also said the company is committed to refuting the claim in court.
But Howie’s attorney, Daniel Gwinn told CBS News Detroit he’s “confident that when the evidence comes out, Mr. Howie’s story will be deemed credible as well as disgusting on the part of Olive Garden.”