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Bar patron claimed internal damage from chemical in beer

Amount:

$750,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Atlantic County

Court:

Atlantic County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

burns-chemical; mental/psychological-emotional distress; gastrointestinal/digestive-esophagus, perforation; gastrointestinal/digestive-gastrointestinal complications (gastroesophageal reflux)

Case Type:

Products Liability - Food, Strict Liability, Failure to Inspect

Case Name:

Richard C. Washart and Cynthia D. Washart v. McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, Inc., Kramer Beverage Company, Kramer Beverage Co LLC, Harrison Beverage LLC, Harrison Beverage Co, Warren Distributing Co South, No. ATL-L-5789-13

Date:

September 15, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Cynthia D. Washart (Female), 

Richard C. Washart (Male, 53 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Paul R. D'Amato Esq.; D'Amato Law Firm, P.C.; Egg Harbor Township, NJ, for Cynthia D. Washart, Richard C. Washart ■ Stephen M. Van Natten; D'Amato Law Firm, P.C.; Egg Harbor Township, NJ, for Cynthia D. Washart, Richard C. Washart ■ Kasi M. Gifford; D'Amato Law Firm, P.C.; Egg Harbor Township, NJ, for Cynthia D. Washart, Richard C. Washart

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Drew Larson; Beverage Industry; Chicago, IL called by: Paul R. D'Amato Esq., Stephen M. Van Natten, Kasi M. Gifford

Defendant(s):

Kramer Beverage Co., 

Harrison Beverage Co., 

Harrison Beverage LLC, 

Kramer Beverage Co. LLC, 

Warren Distributing Co. South, 

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Robert N. Paessler; McMahon, Martine & Gallagher, LLP; Trenton, NJ, for Kramer Beverage Co., Kramer Beverage Co. LLC ■ Marc L. Hurvitz; Hurvitz & Waldman, L.L.C.,; Pleasantville, NJ, for Harrison Beverage Co., Harrison Beverage LLC ■ George C. Godfrey III; Yankwitt LLP; Atlantic City, NJ, for McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. ■ Amelia Lolli; Connor Weber & Oberlies; Moorestown, NJ, for Warren Distributing Co. South

Facts:

On Nov. 6, 2012, plaintiff Richard Washart, 53, a retired police officer, patronized McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant in an Atlantic City casino. He ordered a beer on tap. After taking a swallow from the glass, he immediately felt burning pain in his mouth and throat. He ran to the bathroom, where he began violently vomiting. He attempted to drink water from a faucet but was unable to, because of the pain in his mouth and throat. He went home, where he began vomiting blood, then went to an emergency room, and he was diagnosed with severe burns to the esophagus and stomach, caused by a caustic cleaning solution. Washart sued McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. and the company that it had contracted with to maintain the beer pipes, Kramer Beverage Co. He also sued the companies that supplied and distributed the beer, but they were dismissed prior to trial. Counsel for Washart, relying on the New Jersey Product Liability Act and then the New Jersey Food Safety Act, alleged that the restaurant had distributed and sold a defective product. Counsel further maintained, with support from a beverage-industry expert, that Kramer Beverage was negligent by failing to purge the toxic cleaning solution from the pipeline from which the beer was poured. The expert opined that the company failed to clean the beer lines at the proper intervals and failed to use required testing materials, including PH chemical test strips. McCormick & Schmick's denied negligence and blamed Kramer Beverage. The restaurant argued that the only way a caustic material could have gotten into the pipe was if Kramer Beverage had negligently cleaned the pipe. A restaurant manager testified that on the day of the incident a Kramer employee had told him that he had cleaned the pipes. In addition, McCormick & Schmick's pointed out that no other person who drank tap beer on that day had experienced any health issues. Kramer Beverage denied negligence, stating that none of its employees had performed cleaning duties at the restaurant on the day of the incident.

Injury:

Washart sustained severe burns to the esophagus and stomach and was treated at an emergency room. He had consumed a powerful cleanser used to clean the beer-dispensing line. Washart remained in a hospital one week. His injury resulted in the erosion of about 25 percent of his stomach lining, and a burned esophagus. Washart said he continues to receive regular treatment for internal injuries. During the past five years, he has become increasingly fearful of contracting stomach cancer or cancer of the esophagus, which has caused emotional distress. He worries he may not live to see his daughter grow up. His wife brought a claim for loss of consortium. The defendants did not actively dispute Washart's injuries.

Result:

The jury found that McCormick & Schmick and Kramer Beverage were equally liable for Washart's injuries and awarded Washart damages of $750,000. The jury determined that the restaurant had violated the New Jersey Food and Drug Act, and that Kramer Beverage was negligent in cleaning the pipelines.

Richard C. Washart: $650,000 Personal Injury: pain and suffering; $100,000 Personal Injury: emotional distress

Trial Information:

Judge:

James P. Savio

Trial Length:

7  days

Trial Deliberations:

4  hours

Post Trial:

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. filed a motion for new trial.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel and by defense counsel for McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants Inc. Counsel for Kramer Beverage Co. and Kramer Beverage Co. LLC did not respond to the reporter's phone calls. Counsel for Harrison Beverage LLC, Harrison Beverage Co. and Warren Distributing Co South were not asked to contribute.