Man Burned by McCormick & Schmick’s Beer Not Burned By Court Ruling

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A man has won a $750,000 award in a judgment against the restaurant that served him tainted beer. Richard Washart suffered chemical burns to his esophagus and gastrointestinal tract after he drank a beer laced with caustic cleaning fluid at McCormick and Schmick’s in Atlantic City.

The jury found that Washart had suffered both physical and emotional distress. As a result, jurors awarded $650,000 for his pain and suffering and $100,000 for the emotional toll.

McCormick and Schmick’s, a restaurant at Harrah’s Atlantic City, served the beer after New Jersey-based Kramer Beverage Company had serviced its beer lines. Both the restaurant and the servicer were defendants in the suit.

Each defendant is liable for half the award. McCormick and Schmick’s parent company, Landry’s Inc., announced that it will appeal the ruling.

For McCormick and Schmick’s, liability is more than malice

This case is illustrative for business owners and property owners alike about the legal notions of responsibility. Kramer Beverage’s main argument was that its employees were not present when the incident occurred. Obviously, this assertion did not dissuade the jury from finding fault with the servicer.

However, attorneys for Landry’s laid the blame squarely on Kramer, and as such, denied that McCormick and Schmick’s maintained any legal responsibility or liability for Washart’s injuries. Unfortunately, the legal system in the United States provides for liability even if the defendant acted reasonably to prevent the outcome.

The doctrine in question is strict liability. Simply put, a defendant may be responsible for damages even if it acted appropriately.

For instance, if a homeowner built a pool in his backyard and concealed it behind a six-foot fence, he or she might be liable for damages if any neighborhood child were to be injured or  killed in the pool. This liability could potentially attach even if a kid hopped the fence or otherwise entered the pool without permission.

This legal concept is likely what kept Landry’s on the hook, even though McCormick and Schmick’s acted in good faith. However, there is no denying that Washart suffered unspeakably as the result of consuming the cleaning chemical.

The real victim in this case is not McCormick and Schmick’s

When he took the first gulp of beer, he said that the pain was immediate and excruciating. He ran to the bathroom and began projectile-vomiting blood.

Ultimately, Washart, a retired police officer, spent six days in the hospital and nearly died in the process. Even years after the incident, he remained in constant pain from damage to his esophagus and stomach lining.

It is true that we live in a litigious society and frivolous lawsuits abound. However, in this case, a man nearly died while trying to have a good time in a restaurant.

Hopefully, this jury award will ease his burden a bit. With the two defendants pointing fingers at everyone but themselves, it seems appropriate that somebody should speak for Richard Washart.

Photo by Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

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Bart Shirley

About

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M. In his spare time, Bart teaches math and business at Memorial High School in Houston.

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