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An Arizona mother of four received a hand-delivered letter from a lawyer prohibiting her from entering eight Phoenix-area McDonald’s. She believes the letter resulted from allegations that she discovered antibiotic-resistant Staph or MRSA, known to cause potentially life-threatening infections in a local McDonald’s PlayPlace.

The woman has been on a national crusade to educate parents about the hidden dangers in fast food play areas and to spur legislation that would require regular, consistent cleaning and safety checks at these facilities. Her mission began last spring after she followed her toddler through an Arizona McDonald’s playground and was disgusted by the filth, grime, rotting food, matted hair, Graffiti and abandoned Band-Aids. She complained to a McDonald’s manager about unsanitary conditions, but when she returned a few days later nothing had changed. After numerous complaints went unheeded, she posted a video of the facility on YouTube. She also swabbed the play area and sent her samples to a lab for testing; the results were shocking.

Intent on proving this is not an isolated problem the woman has been mixing family vacations with her play area inspections. She videotapes conditions and swabs the areas microbial testing. Potentially dangerous pathogens including those that can cause meningitis, sepsis, hair, scalp and skin infections, abscesses, gastrointestinal disease/infection, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, food borne illness and more have been found in McDonald’s, Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese’s, and numerous other restaurants. Other concerned parents, and in some cases not parents, have joined her crusade it testing these “playgrounds.”

We will never live in a germ-free world; germs are everywhere and hand washing is an important safeguard. But, what has been found are very high counts of bacteria, and that means these places are not cleaned properly, regularly, or not cleaned at all.

A spokesperson for the Center of Disease Control said that the federal agency would not get involved unless called in by state officials concerned about a major disease breakout. Too late at that point, don’t you think? Once again, McDonald’s puts safety last; it is ignoring obvious health risks to young children. The company is willing to take the calculated gamble that no one will become seriously injured or ill; no one will file a lawsuit. The company brain trust must also assume that if someone does get sick and does sue, the cost of litigation and compensation is less than the cost of correcting the problem. Corporate profits, corporate greed triumphs over safety concerns; this is a common thread in corporate decision making. Customers have a right to expect that these indoor play areas be free of contamination and broken parts Our children should be able to play in an area design for just that without worrying about getting hurt or getting sick. Didn’t McDonald’s learn from its many “Hot Coffee” cases (yes, there were multiple cases of scalding hot coffee causing serious burns at McDonald’s, not just one)? Do company executives wish to continue their long-standing policy of profits over safety? Are they willing to risk more lawsuits and more serious injuries, this time, to our young children?

Corporate America must be held accountable for its callous disregard for safety, for its carelessness and/or negligence. Conservative legislators at the state and federal levels need to stop protecting these corporate wrongdoers. They, and we, must put an end to the concept profits over people. To draw attention to the issue and push for legislation mandating stricter standards for play areas, the nonprofit group, Kids Play Safe was formed. You can help by contacting your elected officials to let them know you would support regulation related to cleaning and maintenance of indoor play areas. Until there are regulations in place requiring these restaurants with indoor “playgrounds” to sanitize, disinfect, and maintain their equipment on a regular basis, parents might want to avoid them. Regulations need to be enacted to prevent child endangerment in these environments. It seems that lawsuits are the only way to shake these corporate wrongdoers up; when it hits them in the pocketbook, safety will become a priority. My message to McDonald’s? “Wake up and smell the coffee.”

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


  1. Gravatar for Avenger

    Much as I hate to agree with you, I think that IF McDonald's is going to have these playground areas, THEN they need to maintain them properly.

    Personally, I think the eating public, as a whole, would prefer that McDonald's simply do away with them. It would make for more pleasurable dining experiences and would remove a significant liability exposure for McDonald's

  2. Mark Bello

    Avenger: Why do you "hate to agree with" me? I am always on the side of truth and justice. Come out of the darkness and run to the light

  3. Gravatar for Avenger

    Mark, I'll believe that when I see a flying moose. I am on the side of "Truth, Justice and the American Way" to quote the old Superman the old television show.

    1) I am opposed to regulation by litigation - I can think of no more expensive way to achieve a result than to pop a 33%-40% contingency fee on top of it. It is up to the legislative bodies to regulate

    2) At one time I was a claim adjuster, a profession that in many states is held to higher ethical standards than attorneys. Yes, there are bad eggs among them, but then, every fraudulent claim I received (those where the Florida Fraud Bureau made arrests and obtained convictions) had a personal injury attorney representing the claimant.

    3) I agree that corporate America should be held accountable for their misdeeds. I also believe that government, labor unions and trial lawyers should be held accountable for their misdeeds but I don't see much enthusiasm among the legal profess for holding their own accountable.

    In many states bar complaints are handled in complete secrecy, subjected to trivial discipline and in too few states are lawyers required to maintain malpractice insurance

  4. Mark Bello

    Avenger: Are you kidding me? There is no profession, NONE, that regulates and punishes it's own like attorneys. What independent "body" regulates Adjusters? As to fraud, I practiced law for almost 30 years and I saw more questionable behavior, despicable conduct, stall tactics and, yes, FRAUD, on the defense side then I ever saw on the plaintiff side. Are there fraudulent claims? Sure there are. But there are far more fraudulent defenses and none of those perpetrators ever get punished. Allowing corporations a free pass to injure people or make them sick, without accountability, as tort reform makes possible, is far more expensive than any contingency fee. And, the idea that government will "regulate" when it's participants take millions in campaign contributions from the very wrongdoers we seek to "regulate" is absurd on it's face. You are entitled to your views and I will always defend your right to express them; but "facts" are more important than "views" and your "views" ignore the "facts".

  5. Pete Mackey

    Avenger - I agree with some of your points. Lawyers (all lawyers) should pay the price for unethical conduct, as should any other professional. But most professional regulatory bodies handle claims against their members just like lawyers do. Same with insurance. E&O coverage should be required, just like it should be for doctors, dentists, engineers, etc. Who regulates insurance adjusters?

    Like many others, my firm handles legal malpractice claims. I don't differentiate a malpractice claim against a lawyer any different than one against an engineer or doctor.

    As for fraud, that is going to happen in a capitalistic society. To say that one generic group has the corner on bad conduct is disingenuous, at best. The Federal False Claim Act was enacted to deal with vendors who were ripping off the Union army on supply contracts. Did you see how much fraud the CBO has uncovered in Iraq/Afghanistan?

    What better "free market" curb is there against fraudulent conduct than lawyers who do what I do, along with the threat that their dishonest conduct could result in punishment damages?

  6. Mike Bryant

    My kids loved the play-lands as they were growing up, for a lot of parents up north it is a great way to feed them and give them something to do for a while. I have no idea why they wouldn't want to keep them safe and clean. Isn't that the reason they expect people to come to McDonalds?

    As for Avenger- I would put the number of fraudulent denials and unfair delays up against the number of actual fake cases out there any day. We don't make money of those case, the insurance companies save money with their practices. Follow the money.

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