Thursday, October 13, 2011

"A Fun, Safe Environment..."

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department declined to dismiss a lawsuit involving horrific injuries sustained by a bar patron. The defendant who had sought the dismissal was Bacardi.

The court found that the allegations sufficiently pled a viable claim for actual and punitive damages:

Plaintiff patron alleges that she was injured when, while at the bar at defendants-respondents' restaurant, the bartender, in a pyrotechnic display, poured Bacardi's high-alcohol content rum onto the surface of the bar and ignited it. At that point, the flame ignited into the bottle and the flaming contents shot out of the mouth of the bottle. As a result, plaintiff sustained severe burns.

The motion court properly concluded that under the circumstances plaintiff has viable claims for both negligence and strict liability based on defective design. Bacardi has submitted no evidence substantively contradicting the facts set forth in the complaint or in the affidavits of plaintiff's experts...Although Bacardi included warning labels on the bottle of Bacardi 151 and installed a removable flame arrester, it did so while actively promoting the very pyrotechnic uses that caused plaintiff's injuries.

The New York Daily News had this coverage of the filing of the suit:

A Manhattan woman who went up in flames to "Great Balls of Fire" when a bartender lit a match to 151-proof booze is firing back in court.

Lauren Sclafani is suing the owners of the Brother Jimmy's chain of barbecue restaurants after she suffered second- and third-degree burns in March in a fiery stunt gone bad.

"I was just about to leave when they decided to light the bar on fire," Sclafani said. "The next thing I know, I am on fire."

Sclafani and a friend were at the Brother Jimmy's on Amsterdam Ave. when the bar was doused in Bacardi 151 rum and lit on fire while the classic Jerry Lee Lewis tune played.

Her suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, charges the bottle of booze exploded, shooting flames that engulfed Sclafani's face, arms and arms.

"It's like lighting gasoline," said her lawyer, Thomas Moore.

Sclafani, a financial worker, spent three weeks in the burn center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she underwent surgeries and skin grafts.

"I can't understand why they would light the bar on fire," she said. "It's mind-boggling to me that they would put so many people in peril."

A spokesman for Brother Jimmy's - which no longer keeps bottles of 151-proof rum in stock - defended the chain's safety record.

"It is a fun, safe environment that people have come to know for 20 years," said Ron Berkowitz.

Sclafani said her injuries will force her to wear compression garments on her hands and to stay out of the sun.

"I just want to go on with my life," she said. "But I really can't."

Her suit also targets Bacardi.

"If you want to do some drinking, I can't think of why 100-proof wouldn't be enough," Moore said.

(Mike Frisch)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2011/10/the-new-york-appellate-division-for-the-first-judicial-department-declined-to-dismiss-a-lawsuit-involving-horrific-injuries-s.html

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