Jury rejects claim of rat in Manchester lemonade
MANCHESTER — A Hillsborough County Superior Court jury found in favor of The Coca-Cola Company Tuesday in a product liability lawsuit brought by a Manchester woman who said she found a dead rat and maggots in a can of Minute Maid frozen lemonade, a company spokesman said.
The jury of six men and six women rendered the verdict shortly after returning from lunch, according to Coca-Cola spokesman Jennifer Cruickshank.
Colleen Grady, 50, had claimed the July 2011 discovery brought on emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
She sued Coca-Cola, the owner of Minute Maid, Hannaford Brothers supermarkets and Victory Distributors. The four-day trial ended with Tuesday's verdict.
"This verdict affirms that Minute Maid beverages meet the highest quality standards at all times," Cruickshank said in a statement emailed shortly after the verdict.
"Our production process and stringent quality protocols make it virtually impossible for this situation to occur. It's unfortunate that someone would seek to profit from such baseless allegations. We are pleased the ruling was in our favor," she said.
A telephone call to Grady's lawyer — Manchester attorney Vincent Wenners — was not returned.
During the trial, Grady complained that she had to keep the rat carcass in her freezer for more than a week when a courier on behalf of Coca-Cola did not immediately arrive to pick it up. She eventually hired a lawyer, and the rat was in cold storage until brought out during the trial.
Grady's friend, Denise Spenard, had testified earlier about opening the can and dumping the contents into the pitcher. Intially, she saw what she thought were seeds in the lemonade syrup, then frozen, gray fur, face and a muzzle.
"That's really our case," Wenners told the jury Monday.
The trial featured employees from the Coca-Cola plant in Ontario, Canada, where the frozen lemonade was canned, a video presentation of the plant, physicians with competing interpretations of Grady's diagnosis and even an insect expert who discussed the life cycle of a maggot.
James E. Riley Jr., the Boston lawyer representing the defendants, told the jury that Grady's post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis was "a tad bit insulting" to Iraqi soldiers, Boston Marathon bombing victims and rape victims.
But Wenners said Riley was attacking Grady, and people react to trauma differently.