Dennis Kucinich Sues House Cafeteria Over Olive Pits

From the Court docket:

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has sued a U.S. House of Representatives cafeteria for selling him a sandwich wrap that caused dental damage when he bit into an olive pit, according to a Jan. 3 lawsuit filed in Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

The Cleveland Democratic congressman’s lawsuit seeks $150,000 in damages from companies that operate the Longworth House Office Building’s cafeteria.

It says he bought the suspicious sandwich wrap “on or about April 17, 2008,” and eating it caused “permanent dental and oral injuries requiring multiple surgical and dental procedures.”

“Said sandwich wrap was unwholesome and unfit for human consumption in that it was presented to contain pitted olives, yet unknown to plaintiff, contained an unpitted olive or olives which plaintiff did not reasonably expect to be in the food prepared for him, and could not visually detect prior to consumption,” the lawsuit said.

Who bites down on a sandwich so hard that dental damage would result from this?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mantis says:

    Wow. What a dufus.

  2. jpe says:

    I could see chipping a tooth on that. The thought of it makes me wince.

  3. Franklin says:

    In response, the cafeteria extended an olive branch to Representative Kucinich.

  4. PJ says:

    Doesn’t he already have a pot of gold?

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    I wonder if he’s suing because his insurance company isn’t covering the damage, or because his insurance company is demanding that he file suit.

  6. joh says:

    multiple surgeries and dental procedures? I always thought the guy was nuts, but he’s just another crook. hate em all

  7. Jay Best says:

    These people run our country….what an example….blame everyone else for your mistakes and sue them.

  8. Shrodney says:

    Isn’t his dental care covered by us / taxpayers? The Catering Companies should reimburse
    the dental plan for the cost and give him $20 for his “pain”.
    He was stupid enough to “chew” on an olive pit ! They are only partially liable.
    $ 150 K !!!! Please !!!!

  9. James Joyner says:

    Doug and Alex, you went to law school and I didn’t but my understanding is that people can’t be held liable for damages caused by naturally occurring items in food. So, if my boneless chicken breast nonetheless has a piece of bone it it, it’s just my tough luck. Or, no?

  10. @Shodrney,

    I have not looked at the Complaint but I’m assuming that medical expenses make up a relatively small portion of the $150,000 sued for. And, since I don’t practice in D.C. I’m not sure whether the law there would require Kucinich to reimburse his insurance company for the medical expenses they paid, or if his insurance contract has a subrogation clause that would require this.


    It may depend on how the food was prepared. Since I doubt the cafeteria pitted the olives in-house (more likely they purchased olives from a supplier they believed to be pitted) I’m not sure how they can be held responsible for this, especially since I’ve encountered the odd olive with a pit in a jar that said they’d been pitted myself.

    Then again I am trying to figure out what kind of sandwich has whole olives in it.

  11. aelfheld says:

    He should have stuck to his Lucky Charms®.

  12. Artie says:


    The olives WERE supplied by Performance Food Group, Inc and/or Foodbuy, LLC. Both are also defendants to the suit.

  13. martin says:

    i broke a tooth on a “pitted” olive once and it still gives me trouble 20 years later. i’m not sure who he should sue or if he should sue at all, but i can definitely empathize…

  14. Alex Knapp says:

    @James –

    It depends on the state. But if you market something as “boneless” and it has a bone in it or “pitted” and it has a pit in it, and that bone or pit led to injury, there are probably some products liabilty issues.

    I’m inclined to think that the insurance company is pushing this suit in some way. At least, that’s how I’d bet.

  15. Tom says:

    It’s no fun biting into food when it has unexpected pits or rocks. But 150 Gs? That seems rather high.

  16. rizzo says:

    Man, who buys a sandwich with olives in it anyhow? Gross!

  17. Coyote says:

    Actually (and I hate to be the voice of reason), olive pits are much harder than teeth.

    Also, the amount of pressure that we put down when we bite normally while chewing food is surprisingly high. So, to answer the question of “who bites down hard enough to do that kind of damage?” the answer is “Almost certainly you and everyone else who isn’t too old or young to chew their food.”

    When we bite our tongues or cheeks, the sensitive nerves there usually warn us before we do serious damage.

    Our teeth can’t sense that that efficiently.

    Mr. Kucinich is in his sixties, so his teeth and jaws are older and more subject to damage.

    Biting down unexpectedly on an olive pit could easily shatter someone’s teeth, and depending on the angle of the fracture, do serious damage to the underlying bone. It could even damage facial nerves, resulting in a loss of taste and permanent pain, depending on their facial structure.

    I have a cousin who suffered a similar accident. It caused him to require multiple painful surgeries, and he lost his sense of smell (and thus, can no longer taste and enjoy food).

    When there is wrongdoing, it is typical (a completely standard procedure) in court, when seeking damages, to ask for damages in triplicate. If he’s had to have multiple surgeries, that could easily result in tens of thousands of dollars just in medical costs, and that’s even if he’s not seeking damages for distress.

    If he were asking for millions of dollars (which people have won in nuisance suits against restaurants repeatedly), I’d think he was being a jerk.

    In any case, you should no more expect an olive pit in your sandwich than you should expect to find walnut hulls, rocks, or pieces of glass.

  18. Denise says:

    I broke a tooth on a cherry pit at a restaurant. They gave my party freebies and paid the whole tab. I felt bad, the manager and waiter seemed to have felt worse and kept apologizing.

    Yes, I had high dental bills (not $150k by any means), I paid them out of pocket. Never once did it occur to me to sue the restaurant. The staff at the restaurant didn’t seem to be giving us a free tab because they were worried that I was suing them, they were genuinely concerned about me.

    Why do we need to sue everyone for everything we do to ourselves? Any reasonable person can see that eating a cherry pie can result in biting into a pit. Any reasonable person who orders a sandwich with whole olives in it should realize there might be a pit in one of the olives. (The question is still unanswered, what kind of sandwich has whole olives??)

    Unfortunately, in this case it seems we aren’t talking about a reasonable person. The proper response from a guy who gets paid an awful lot of money to eat free food would be to set an example for those in our country who sue at every little mishap they encounter. Not that Mr. Kucinich’s “injuries” are slight, they may indeed be horrible enough to merit $150,000… but man up, sir, you bit into a whole olive without considering what you were eating.

    The above wasn’t even taking into consideration that he’s suing a company that is paid for by tax dollars who will likely pass his settlement cost along to the taxpayers.

  19. James says:

    What a let down.

    A: His tooth is not worth 150k

    B: if it was ‘suspicious’ why did he eat it?

    C: Too bad he doesn’t have dental insurance…. ~

  20. bob says:

    Muffuletta sandwich. They are great if prepared right.

  21. dee says:

    The Martians must have sneaked the olive in the sandwich…….