Jurors weigh case of New Jersey man burned by caustic beer

Richard Washart took a gulp of the beer he had been served at an Atlantic City casino restaurant, and immediately felt burning pain.

He ran to the bathroom, where he experienced the first of six rounds of projectile vomiting. He tried to drink water from the faucet, but was unable to, due to the pain in his mouth and throat.

A short time later, he began vomiting blood and went to a hospital; a doctor said he had never seen a patient survive with such severe burns to the esophagus and stomach.

The Seaville, New Jersey, man is suing the restaurant, McCormick & Schmick's which is located at the Harrah's casino, claiming he was served beer tainted by a caustic agent used to clean beer tap lines. Harrah's is not a defendant in the suit.

A New Jersey jury got the case Thursday, left to deliberate whether the restaurant and a company it hired to clean its beer lines were responsible for Washart's injuries. They ended without reach a verdict Thursday afternoon and will resume Friday.

The restaurant blames a company it uses to clean its beer lines, Kramer Beverage Co., of Hammonton, New Jersey, which denied being at the restaurant Nov. 6, 2012, when the incident took place.

"Richard Washart went with his colleagues to McCormick & Schmick's, drank a draft beer, and immediately felt a searing, burning pain," his lawyer, Paul D'Amato said outside the courtroom. "There's no doubt the beer had cleaning agent in it."

D'Amato said Kramer Beverage is mostly responsible for the episode, noting that it doesn't follow industry recommendations to use pH testing strips that cost 15 cents apiece to check beer after lines have been cleaned. But he also said the restaurant violated New Jersey's Adulterated Food Act by serving Washart a tainted brew.

Washart was hospitalized for six days. He declined to comment Thursday.

Robert Paessler, a lawyer for Kramer Beverage, denies the company was at the restaurant on the day Washart consumed the cleaning agent.

"The first question right off the bat: Did Kramer Beverage clean a line on Nov. 6, 2012? The answer is no. That's the end of the case."

George Godfrey, a lawyer for McCormick & Schmick's, said the restaurant did nothing wrong and that the only way caustic material could have gotten into the beer line is if Kramer had cleaned it. A restaurant manager testified during the trial he saw a Kramer employee that day who told him he had cleaned the beer lines, but Kramer disputes it.

D'Amato noted that Kramer destroyed records that could have shown where the company's line cleaners worked that day.


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