Woman awarded $3.25 million after being served cleaning solution at casino | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Woman awarded $3.25 million after being served cleaning solution at casino

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A jury awarded a woman who was served a powerful cleaning solution in a water bottle at Harveys Resort and Casino in 2007 more than $3 million this week.

Following a 12-day trial, a San Francisco County Superior Court jury awarded Marin County resident Julia Ellis $3.25 million dollars for being served a chemical called “Super Trump,” said Christopher B. Dolan, Ellis’ attorney, during a Thursday phone interview.

A bartender severed the cleaning solution to Ellis in a Harrah’s branded water bottle on Dec. 2, 2007, according to a statement from The Dolan Law Firm.

“Ms. Ellis was handed a Harrah’s branded bottle of water, took a large drink, and promptly doubled over in pain, screaming that she was burning from the inside,” according to the statement.

Ellis, now 70, suffered second and third degree burns on her esophagus as a result of drinking the liquid detergent used in industrial dishwashing machines, Dolan said.

The chemical is light tan and odorless and has a pH of 13 to 14, according to product specifications. The chemical is corrosive to the eyes, skin, respiratory system, mouth, throat and stomach.

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Ellis nearly died following the incident, Nolan said. She filed a lawsuit against Harrah’s Entertainment on Sept. 24, 2009.

Harrah’s admitted it was liable for the accident shortly before the jury was seated in the case, but never said how the accident happened, Dolan said.

“A Harvey’s employee had apparently poured the solution from its large storage container into an empty, unmarked Harrah’s water bottle and left it in the kitchen, where it was soon thereafter served to Ms. Ellis,” according to the statement.

Harvey’s spokesman John Packer declined to comment on the case Thursday.

The trial was held solely to determine the amount of damages to be awarded. The jury deliberated for two and a half hours before reaching awarding Ellis damages, Dolan said.

The jury awarded Ellis $3 million for past and future non-economic damages and $169,308 for past medical expenses and lost income, according to court records. She was also awarded $85,000 for future medical expenses.

Ellis has acquired an extreme fear of choking and has suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the accident, which has required Ellis to undergo more than 75 medical procedures, Dolan said.

She has also experienced complications from eating solid food and has chosen to eat soft foods rather then continue self-administering a device to break up scar tissue in her esophagus, Dolan said.

Breaking up the scar tissue has been necessary to keep Ellis’ esophagus open, Dolan said.

Nevada health officials issued several violations to Harvey’s following the incident, Dolan said.

“Food safety is a national priority,” Dolan said in the statement. “This is a tragedy that never should have happened and that could have been avoided. We thank the jury for providing help to our client, and hope that this result will make those we trust with keeping our food safe re-examine their safety procedures to ensure this sort of catastrophe never happens again.”