New Jersey man burned by tainted beer at Atlantic City casino gets $750K

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- A New Jersey man who was severely burned after drinking a beer tainted by a caustic chemical at an Atlantic City casino restaurant has been awarded $750,000. 

Paul D'Amato, the lawyer for Richard Washart, tells The Associated Press the jury awarded him $650,000 Friday for pain and suffering, and $100,000 for emotional distress.

The Seaville, New Jersey, man, sued 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 casino was not a defendant in the suit. 

On Nov. 6, 2012, Washart ran into 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. 

Washart was hospitalized for six days. 

The restaurant blamed a company it uses to clean its beer lines, Kramer Beverage Co., of Hammonton, New Jersey, which denied being at the restaurant in 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 was 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.   

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

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.    

The defendants each must pay half the award.