David Chang

Contaminated Beer at AC Restaurant Poisons Former Police Officer: Lawsuit

A retired Ocean City police officer is suing an Atlantic City restaurant, claiming a beer he bought there was contaminated with a caustic cleaning solution that left him permanently injured. 

Richard Washart told NBC10 his trouble began in November of 2012 when he visited McCormick and Schmick’s restaurant at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City. Washart says he took one sip of a draft beer and immediately felt a searing pain. He then says he started vomiting blood.

“It was direly wrong and I knew I was in trouble,” he said.

Washart says his violent reaction was due to a cleaning product that remained in a beer dispensing line at the restaurant.

“Rich is lucky to be alive,” said Washart’s lawyer Paul D’Amato.

Washart was hospitalized for a week with burns to his digestive tract. He says he still feels discomfort from his injuries and he requires medical treatment three years later.

“My future is uncertain as far as the medical side of things go,” he said.

Washart and his wife Cynthia – an emergency room nurse for nearly 30 years – filed a lawsuit accusing McCormick and Schmick’s as well as the two local beer distributors hired to regularly clean the beer lines, accusing them of negligence.

“You think when you go out to eat that what you’re going to ingest is safe,” Cynthia Washart said. “I never questioned that before.”

The plaintiff wants someone to claim responsibility.

“Nobody is admitting responsibility,” D’Amato said. “That’s why we’re asking people -- somebody’s out there that knows what happened -- to come forward and let’s avoid a full blown trial.”

The defendants denied any wrongdoing in a statement sent to NBC10:

“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," read the M&S statement. "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.”

D'Amato said Washart's 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.'"

"How else does the restaurant explain...medical reports that categorically concluded that approximately 25% of Mr. Washart's stomach was destroyed -- almost immediately..." a statement by D'Amato reads.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. Washart also says he wants those involved in the food and beverage industry to be more careful.

“Please do it the right way,” Washart said. “We don’t want this to happen to somebody else.”

If the case goes to trial it will likely begin next summer. 

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