Can A Bum Tortilla Chip Give You A Stroke? Let Someone Else Find Out in Court, Not Me!

A delicious home made salsa pico de gallo with tomato, red onion, lime, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper.

People often ask me, “Mike, what kinds of NY personal injury cases do you take”?  My answer is simple:  Cases I can win.  I don’t mind if they are tough to win, but at least they must be winnable.  I want to help my clients, and taking an unwinnable case does the client no favor.  Tough for me to get paid on unwinnable cases, too, since I operate almost exclusively on a contingency fee basis.

Funny that no one ever asks me what kind of cases I don’t take.  Glad you asked.  I just read about a case that is the poster child for a case I would not take:  A Texas entrepreneur, Henry Riojas, recently sued a tortilla manufacturer claiming bad tortilla chips caused him to have a stroke.


The defendant he sued — the tortilla manufacturer — is appropriately named “El Matador Foods, Inc.”  The word “matador” means “killer” in Spanish.  So I guess Henry Riojas can’t sue for failure to warn!

Henry Riojas’ company’s name is also interesting:  “Henry’s Dream Distributors”.  Keep in mind this plaintiff is suing “El Matador Foods” for selling him rancid chips which he in turn distributed to his would-be clients, which in turn caused his business to go poof.  Sounds like “Henry’s Nightmare Distributors” would be a more a propos name.

Reading the Complaint is a tortilla-chip-from-hell adventure story. Riojas alleges that, at a product demonstration at Sam’s Club, he opened one of El Matador’s sealed bags of tortilla chips and – lo and behold – a dirty salt shaker spilled out of the bag along with the chips.  Talk about too salty!  Several customers witnessed the surprise salt-shaker appearance and walked off from the demonstration in disgust.

That may have taken a “chip” out of Riojas’ business, but it was just the beginning.  A few months later, at a similar event, a “dirty napkin” and rancid chips tumbled out of one of the sealed bags.  This double whammy (dirty napkin and rancid chips all in one bag) caused Riojas to be barred from the event (not clear if the dirty napkin or the rancid chip was the last straw).

Henry Riojas claims all these events so damaged his “Henry Dream Distributors” company reputation that he literally “stroked out”. But couldn’t hot salsa – or any number of things – have caused the stroke?  Maybe he had devoured too many tortilla chips over the years and clogged up his arteries.  I doubt he’ll find an M.D. who will swear under oath it was the El Matador chips that did him in.

I would have no trouble representing Mr. Riojas for breach of contract and other such claims, along with loss of business income, but blaming a stroke on the chips?  I can already hear the jury laughing poor Mr. Riojas out of court.  “Hey, Riojas, this is ‘nacho’ best day”.  Will that cause him to stroke out again?  Will he sue the jury?  Yeah, I’m not taking that case either.

Keep safe!

Mike Bersani

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Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels Bersani Kalabanka


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