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Hungry? You may want to think twice before you think outside the bun. Just ask George Phelps, a VA Beach man who suffered severe injuries to his throat after swallowing bones in a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell. In the lawsuit, filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, George E. Phelps Jr. said he "endured the vomiting of blood-streaked phlegm" after three animal bones got caught in his throat. He’s seeking $70,000 in compensation for his injuries from Taco Bell of America and Yum Brands Inc.

Phelps missed work for three days, rang up medical bills, and "suffered great mental anguish," the suit says. He ordered the pizza on April 13, 2007, at Taco Bell on Fordham Drive, near Indian River and Kempsville roads. He began coughing and choking, and was able to pull one of the bones from his throat, the suit says. Doctors pulled two more from his throat at the hospital.

Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Taco Bell, wrote in an e-mail that the safety and health of customers and employees is the restaurant’s priority. The company is investigating Phelps’s case. This is not the first time Taco Bell has been sued for tainted food. Last year, a Nebraska family was awarded $40,000 after eating urine-tainted food from a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.

Great mental anguish? I would say so! With today’s stop-and-go traffic, hurry-up-and-wait lifestyle, this type of thing was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s bad enough that American families don’t have the time or resources to make decent, healthy meals at home. It’s even worse that finding a healthy meal at a reasonably-priced restaurant is like a real-life Where’s Waldo. Now, sloppy fast-food joints are further tainting our food with animal and human refuse!

What can you do as a consumer? Educate yourself! As a personal injury attorney, I know that prevention boils down to being knowledgeable about risks. Take a minute to think about the food you’re eating. Aside from absorption through skin, ingestion by mouth is the easiest way to poison yourself. Look around the restaurant: is it clean? Can you see a health department sanitation score? Have your friends and family gotten sick after eating at that restaurant? Trust me, making the effort to think for a minute about what you’re eating is well worth it. After all, your health is your true wealth.

Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia (VA), near the Northeast North Carolina (NC) border, practicing primarily in the southeastern U.S. and handles only injury law, including car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. The firm’s website is:, the firm edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, as well as the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard and also hosts a video library covering many FAQ’s on personal injury subjects. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY. CA

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