SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Dickey's Barbecue restaurant in Utah that mistakenly served toxic iced tea to a woman two years ago is suing the manufacturer and distributor of a chemical product that an employee put in the tea mix thinking it was sugar.
In the lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court, the restaurant says the packaging of the chemical cleaning product didn't have proper safety warnings.
The Dickey's franchise is seeking $5 million in damages from U.S. Foods and Ecolab. The company's reputation took a severe hit because of the widespread coverage of the incident, costing it profits.
Ecolab, a Minnesota-based company that manufactures the chemical, doesn't have a comment on the lawsuit, company spokesman Roman Blahoski said. U.S. Foods, an Illinois-based company that distributes the chemical, doesn't comment on pending lawsuits, company spokeswoman Debra Ceffalio said Friday.
Jan Harding drank the iced tea in August 2014 at a Dickey's in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan. She immediately began choking and suffered severe burns to her esophagus.
Harding was hospitalized for two weeks and was in critical condition for several days. She has since made a good recovery.
Authorities say a Dickey's worker inadvertently mixed an industrial cleaning solution, lye, into an iced tea dispenser. Lye, an odorless chemical that looks like sugar, is used for degreasing deep fryers and is the active ingredient in Drano.
Prosecutors decided not to file charges in the incident, saying there were errors and mishaps but no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Harding reached an undisclosed settlement with Dickey's in December 2014. As part of the agreement, Dickey's vowed to make extensive changes to ensure the incident wasn't repeated.
The lawsuit was first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Utah franchise of Dickey's, called Finger Lickin' Brands, says that U.S. Foods sent the cleaning product in cardboard boxes filled with unmarked plastic bags. Each plastic bag should have been labeled to ensure employees knew what it was, Dickey's says in the lawsuit.
One of those bags became separated from the cardboard box, leading the employee to mistake it for sugar and put it into the iced tea mix, the lawsuit says.