ATLANTIC CITY — A jury has awarded $750,000 in damages to a Cape May County man severely injured after drinking beer drawn from a casino restaurant’s tap containing a caustic cleaning solution, his attorney said Friday.
Richard Washart, a former Ocean City police lieutenant, had sued McCormick and Schmick’s and Kramer Beverage Co., the restaurant’s beer supplier-maintenance contractor, for life-altering physical and emotional injuries, said Paul R. D’Amato, who represented Washart, of Seaville, Upper Township, and his wife, Cynthia.
“This unprecedented case was never about anything other than obtaining justice for a dedicated former public servant and his family,” D’Amato said in a press release. “They consistently rejected settlement offers because it was so important that all the facts of this case be heard by a jury of their peers. Rich and Cindy are grateful for the service of the jurors, the supervision of the Court, and believe justice has been served with this resounding verdict.”
Washart went to the restaurant in Harrah’s Casino in 2012. As he took a gulp of the beer he had been served, he 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, where a doctor said he had never seen a patient survive with such severe burns to the esophagus and stomach.
The Atlantic County jury got the case Thursday to deliberate whether the restaurant and a company it hired to clean its beer lines were responsible for Washart’s injuries. They ended without reaching a verdict Thursday and resumed Friday.
The restaurant blamed a company it uses to clean its beer lines, Kramer Beverage Co., of Hammonton, which denied being at the restaurant Nov. 6, 2012, when the incident took place.
D’Amato said Kramer Beverage is mostly responsible for the episode, noting 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 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.
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 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 Kramer destroyed records that could have shown where the company’s line cleaners worked that day.
One-quarter of Washart’s stomach was eroded, and his esophagus was burned, according to D’Amato.
He still receives regular treatment, D’Amato said.