A New Jersey man is filing suit against an Atlantic City restaurant after he claims he was served draft beer laced with dangerous cleaning products. According to Press of Atlantic City, retired police officer Richard Washart was celebrating a business deal at seafood chain McCormick & Schmick's inside Harrah's casino in 2012 when he accidentally ingested the contaminated beer.
According to the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Washart ordered a Sam Adams Winter Lager on draft and after taking the first sip, "he immediately felt pain from his mouth to his sternum." He ran to the bathroom where he began vomiting profusely, and soon began throwing up blood. Washart was hospitalized for a week and says he's still receiving treatment for his injuries, which according to the suit "include[s] erosion of about 25 percent of his stomach lining."
A press release from the law firm representing Washart claims the beer was "drawn from a tap system line that contained a powerful caustic cleaning solution." The suit is scheduled to go to trial in 2016.
Washart isn't the first person to suffer serious injuries from accidentally consuming cleaning products at a restaurant: In 2014 a Dickey's Barbecue customer drank tea that was laced with a lye-based industrial cleaner and wound up in the hospital in critical condition; she later settled for an undisclosed sum. Then earlier this year, a cop claimed he was poisoned after drinking cleaning solution from a McDonald's iced tea dispenser; and in July, Starbucks was sued for $2 million by a customer who claimed she was served a drink laced with a cleaning solution used on coffee and espresso machines.
Short of preparing all their beverages at home, it might be difficult for consumers to protect themselves from these types of rare but dangerous situations — but restaurants would be wise to implement strict policies on when and how their beverage systems must be cleaned in order to stave off future lawsuits.
UPDATE 12/16 11:19 a.m.: Reached by Eater for comment, a rep for McCormick & Schmick's sent the following statement:
McCormick & Schmick denies the baseless allegations made by Mr. D’Amato’s law firm in an attempt to posture and gain media attention on a case that was filed on his client’s behalf more than two years ago. During the entire course of this litigation, Mr. Washart and his attorneys have been unable to provide a shred of evidence proving that McCormick & Schmick did anything wrong. Moreover, no other person who drank tap beer on that day experienced any issues. We will not allow the Plaintiff’s attorney to tarnish our good name over a frivolous lawsuit such as this, and remain very confident that we will prevail on the merits of this case.
UPDATE 12/16 6:20 p.m.: Washart's attorney offered the following response to McCormick & Schmick:
The Washart family is justifiably appalled that McCormick & Schmick would label our complaint frivolous and claim there is not a "shred of evidence proving M&S did anything wrong." There is not a shred of evidence, but a mountain of evidence to support the claims. How else does it explain the fact that Mr. Washart was hospitalized for seven days starting within just a few hours after drinking the tainted beer, and now requires a lifetime of treatment for his injuries? And how else does the restaurant explain the graphic diagnostic images and detailed medical reports that categorically concluded that approximately 25 percent of Mr. Washart's stomach was destroyed — almost immediately — by the toxic brew poured from the restaurant's tap system and served to him by its employee? Sadly, it now seems intent on re-victimizing Mr. Washart and his family and attacking their legal representatives.