The owners of a Burger King franchise are labeling "without merit" a lawsuit brought by a man who says he found a condom in a sandwich he bought there.

Carrols Corp. of Syracuse, N.Y., the franchise owner, has yet to file a formal response in Rutland Superior Court to the lawsuit by Van Miguel Hartless, 24, of Fair Haven.

It issued a statement Tuesday saying it "continues to thoroughly investigate this matter, but is confident that no Carrols employee placed any foreign object on Mr. Hartless' food. Based upon the information we've gathered thus far, we intend to vigorously defend this action and believe it is without merit."

The company said it would file its formal response to the lawsuit soon.

"We were certain in June that there was no validity to the claim," said Joseph Zirkman, vice president and general counsel of Carrols Corp. "We're doing what we can to investigate and make sure the truth comes out."

Burger King Corp. also issued a statement, saying, "Food safety at Burger King restaurants is non-negotiable. We understand that Carrols Corporation undertook a thorough investigation of the facts of this case and also cooperated fully with the Vermont Department of Health.

"We have a long-term relationship with this franchisee and have faith in the investigation they performed in June," it continued. "Based on their findings, which to date shows no evidence of food tampering by any of their employees, the franchisee believes that the claim is without merit and is prepared to vigorously defend against the lawsuit."

Alfred Burns, a sanitarian supervisor for the state Department of Health, said state investigators "found nothing wrong in the restaurant at that time as far as tampering and contamination are concerned," he said.

He said investigators couldn't rule out the possibility that someone had placed a condom in the sandwich.

Hartless said he kept the sandwich and the condom as evidence of the event. He and his lawyer said he had passed a lie-detector test.

"It was never my intention to file a lawsuit in the first place," said Hartless, a junior at Green Mountain College in Poultney. "I just wanted the assurance that they would pay my medical bills if something happened to me. It wasn't until they insulted me that I got a lawyer."