LAS VEGAS – The woman who claims she bit into a human finger while eating chili at a Wendy's restaurant (search) has a history of filing lawsuits — including a claim against another fast-food restaurant.
Anna Ayala (search), 39, who hired a San Jose, Calif., attorney to represent her in the Wendy's case, has been involved in at least half a dozen legal battles in the San Francisco Bay area, according to court records.
She brought a suit against an ex-boss in 1998 for sexual harassment and sued an auto dealership in 2000, alleging the wheel fell off her car. That suit was dismissed after Ayala fired her lawyer, who said she had threatened him.
The case against her former employer was settled in arbitration in June 2002, but it was not known whether she received any money.
Speaking through the front door of her Las Vegas home Friday, Ayala claimed police are out to get her and were unnecessarily rough as they executed a search warrant at her home on Wednesday.
"Lies, lies, lies, that's all I am hearing," she said. "They should look at Wendy's. What are they hiding? Why are we being victimized again and again?"
Ayala acknowledged, however, that her family received a settlement for their medical expenses about a year ago after reporting that her daughter, Genesis, got sick from food at an El Pollo Loco (search) restaurant in Las Vegas. She declined to provide any further details.
San Jose police have joined the Las Vegas police fraud unit in the investigation into how a 1 1/2-inch-long fingertip ended up in Ayala's bowl of chili at the San Jose Wendy's on March 22. Ayala said Friday she had not yet filed a claim against Wendy's, and it was unclear whether she had filed suit against the franchise owner.
Wendy's spokesman Bob Bertini would not comment on the investigation Friday.
The company, however, maintains that the finger did not enter the food chain in its ingredients. The employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers of Wendy's ingredients have reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said.
On Thursday, Wendy's offered a $50,000 reward to anyone providing verifiable information leading to the positive identification of the origin of the finger.
"It's very important to our company to find out the truth in this incident," Tom Mueller, Wendy's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Investigators would not say what they were looking for in the search of Ayala's house. Ken Bono, a family friend who lives at the home, said officers searched freezers, a picnic cooler in the backyard and the belongings of an aunt who used to live at the house.
The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office used a partial fingerprint to attempt to find a match in an electronic database of missing people and those with criminal histories, but came up empty. DNA testing is still being conducted on the finger.
"The simple fact of the matter is that the finger came from somebody. Where's that person at?" said Sgt. Nick Muyo, a spokesman for the San Jose Police Department.
Bertini said Wendy's stores in the area have suffered from declining sales since the incident.
"Obviously the store has been down significantly," he said. "This has been an ordeal for all of us. Hopefully there will be a resolution soon."