Case Summaries

Burger en Fuego

Personal injury case draws $1mil verdict. 

You go in for a burger. You leave in an ambulance and have debilitating health problems for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Chiosso Law client, Sean Stout. He was up sold into ordering the “XXX Habanero Burger.” Anyone who finished it got a commemorative bumper sticker and their picture on the wall. Not knowing at the time there were ghost peppers in the sauce, he gave it a try. Mind you, this was back in 2015, when it wasn’t commonly known that ghost peppers were one of the hottest peppers known in the world. The restaurant even had everyone who ordered it sign a waiver, which Sean did. How spicy is the sauce? The chef wears a gas mask while preparing it. And Sean’s burger had 3?4 times the standard amount of sauce.

Mouth on fire can’t begin to describe it. Sean was given two pitchers of water to wash it all down. The spicy burger and 2 pitchers of water created insurmountable pressure in Sean’s stomach. After eating the burger, Sean had an episode of projectile vomiting that blew a hole in his esophagus, filled his chest cavity with toxic vomit and caused a collapsed lung. He was taken to the ER and read his last rights. But he underwent emergency life?saving surgery and was put into a 2 week coma to allow his esophagus to heal. Sean suffered from extreme ER psychosis and relied on a feeding tube for much of the next two years. He’s since undergone over 9 more surgeries related to the burger. Though he improved a little, he still had trouble eating food by the time of the case in 2019.

During discovery for the case, we learned that the bar had a known history of customers complaining about vomiting after eating their burger (thanks to Facebook). However, the bar owner denied knowledge of any previous events, so we brought the Facebook posters to trial for some memorable testimony. Chiosso Law had outstanding partners in this case, including Miles Cooper of Emison Cooper & Cooper, Albert Thuesen and James O’Brien of Coit Law Group. They were particularly effective in picking a jury, which was essential.

The largest issues in the case were:

1) The signed “waiver” (which, if found to be applicable, can only be beaten by a showing of gross negligence)

2) The primary assumption of risk defense for participating in a food eating challenge (which must be beaten by demonstrating the host increased the risks otherwise normally inherent in the activity).

We beat them both. We argued for future medical expenses, general damages, negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of companionship for Sean’s spouse. After 16 days of trial, the jury awarded $1.05 million to our client, which was 5 times more than the defendants’ only settlement offer.

There are a lot of factors about this case, but a few lessons are the importance of having the proper counsel, willing to fight and go to great lengths to find the truth. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to get all the people and records needed. If you’ve had an injury that you think shouldn’t have happened — or know someone who has — contact Chiosso Law at