South Jordan, Utah Barbecue Restaurant Sues Product Manufacturer After Customer Injured Drinking Tainted Tea

Originally based in Texas, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has grown into a popular franchise in Utah, where it serves up classic favorites like pulled pork, ribs, and brisket.  However, one Dickey’s customer in South Jordan, Salt Lake County was seriously injured in 2014 after drinking iced tea contaminated with cleaning products, leaving the victim hospitalized for internal chemical burns.  Now, the barbecue chain is suing its suppliers, alleging negligence related to the labeling and distribution of cleaning products responsible for the injury.  If you suffered a burn injury from tainted foods or beverages served at any restaurant in Utah, you should talk to a Utah product liability lawyer about getting compensated for your medical bills and other expenses.

Dickey’s BBQ Sues Distributor, Manufacturer for Negligence, Contaminated Beverages

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If you’re a Salt Lake City local, you’ve probably driven past the Dickey’s near I-15 or Parkway Boulevard countless times on your way to work.  In fact, Dickey’s serves hungry patrons all over the state, with locations in Draper, Logan, Ogden, Orem, Park City, Tooele, West Valley City, and South Jordan.  In recent years, the latter has hit a few bumps in its legal road.

The owner of Dickey’s South Jordan, located at 689 West South Jordan Parkway, filed a lawsuit against cleaning product manufacturer Ecolab, Inc. and food distributor US Foods, Inc. earlier this month after a harmful cleaning agent tainted a batch of iced tea.  The product, a powerful industrial cleaner called Clean Force Fryer Cleaner, is normally used to degrease deep fryers.  Its active ingredient — sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye — is commonly used to remove paint, refine petroleum, and even dehorn cattle.  If swallowed, the CDC recommends seeking medical help “immediately.”

Dickey’s franchisee and plaintiff, Finger Lickin’ Brands, LLC, alleges that Ecolab, Inc. and US Foods, Inc. acted negligently when distributing and labeling Clean Force Fryer Cleaner, allowing six cups of the product — which is odorless and plain white in color, making it easily mistaken for harmless sugar — to find its way into the Dickey’s iced tea dispenser, causing injury to a customer in 2014.

The complaint alleges that ambiguous, unclear packaging and labeling led to an otherwise preventable mix-up when preparing the iced tea.  According to the complaint, “The Clean Force product delivered to FLB did not contain appropriate or adequate packaging, and lacked proper safety warnings regarding the nature and use of the product.”  The complaint also noted that Clean Force “was defective in its manufacture, design, packaging and warnings, in such a manner as to render it unreasonably dangerous to the ultimate user” of the product.  According to the plaintiff, Dickey’s received the Clean Force Fryer Cleaner shipment in unmarked bags that did not “distinguish its appearance from other nonhazardous products such as sugar,” creating avoidable confusion — with painful results for one patron.

South Jordan Restaurant Customer Suffers Chemical Burns to Esophagus from Lye-Tainted Tea

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Jan Harding, 67, who drank the contaminated tea, was hospitalized for two weeks at the University of Utah Health Care Burn Center in Salt Lake City after sustaining chemical burns to her esophagus.  She recalled feeling a burning sensation immediately after consuming the tainted substance.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office initially investigated Finger Lickin’ Brands, LLC for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.  However, the DA’s office declined to file charges after determining the company had not acted with intent to harm or otherwise violated Utah’s criminal code.

While Harding ultimately settled out of court with Finger Lickin’ Brands, LLC in 2014 for an undisclosed amount, the company is now proceeding with its own lawsuit against US Foods, Inc. and Ecolab, Inc., seeking $5 million in damages related to lost profits, lost commercial opportunities, and property damage resulting from the contamination.  According to the lawsuit, “FLB’s reputation was severely damaged by this incident involving injury to its customer and it has suffered compensatory damages, including substantial special damages.”

In a lawsuit, “compensatory damages” describes compensation for harm to the victim, with “special damages” or “economic damages” specifically referring to financial losses.

Contact a Utah Product Liability Lawyer if You Were Injured by Food or Drinks

If you or one of your family members was injured after eating or drinking defective, tainted food or beverages at a fast-food franchise, bar, or restaurant in Utah, you could have a personal injury claim against the establishment you dined at, its suppliers, or other parties.  A skilled attorney can help determine whether a person or business may have been at fault for your injuries and what the value of your product liability claim may be.

To set up a free legal consultation with an experienced Utah personal injury lawyer, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.  Attorney Darwin Overson handles defective product claims in South Jordan and throughout the Salt Lake County area.

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