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Written by Peter Carter

October 13, 2017

A US court has awarded a restaurant patron substantial damages after he consumed a contaminated beer during a celebratory dinner with colleagues.

In late 2012, Richard Washart enjoyed a beer from the tap at McCormick &t Schmick’s Seafood and Steak Restaurant in New Jersey. Upon ordering a second, the barman announced his preferred lager was offline, so he agreed to the recommended substitute, a Samuel Adams Winter.

Washart quickly fell ill after just a few chugs. He was rushed to hospital where he was treated over 6 days for burns to his oesophagus and the erosion of almost 25% of his stomach lining – all from a corrosive cleaning solution being present in the beer lines.

Washart sued the restaurant in 2015, claiming they had contravened the relevant food safety law by serving the contaminated beer.  He also brought an action in negligence against Kramer Beverage Co. – the company who both supplied and maintained Schmick’s beer lines.

At trial, Washart’s beer line cleaning expert testified that industry standards required lines be cleaned every two weeks, by flushing them with fresh water for 15 minutes before testing pH levels. However, it was revealed that Kramer Beverage Co only cleaned the lines every two months, failed to use pH strips and only flushed for 10minutes.

The restaurant blamed Kramer Beverage Co, claiming they failed to meet industry standards, whilst the co-accused denied liability, claiming the contamination could not have occurred as submitted as they had not recently cleaned the lines.

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Last month, a jury found both defendants responsible, declaring them equally liable and ordering they each pay half of Mr Washart’s US$750k damages – US$650k for pain and suffering and US$100k for the emotional distress he endured.

Washart’s injuries now render him at an increased risk to both stomach and oesophageal cancer and as a result, he has undergone biopsies every six months since the incident.

Schmick’s parent company Landry’s Inc.- has since expressed they intend to appeal.

Washart v. McCormick & Schmick’s, No. ATL-L-5789-13 (N.J. Super. Ct. Atlantic Cnty. Sept. 15, 2017).

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