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Bar faces steep fines after customer injured by liquid nitrogen

As you might imagine, there are many liability issues with owning a bar. People often make bad decisions while intoxicated, which can lead to destruction of property or assault by customers. The loud atmosphere and poor lighting in many bars can also increase the risk of personal injury.

Moreover, bars have to be careful not to over-serve obviously intoxicated patrons. If they do, they could be held liable for what happens to those patrons (and others) when they leave the bar. And as one recent news story shows, even the decorative garnishes in some drinks can be a serious health hazard.

In 2012, a woman was celebrating her 18th birthday at a bar in Great Britain (where the drinking age is lower than in the United States). Because it was her birthday, the bartender gave her a free drink, which appeared to be giving off steam or smoke because it contained liquid nitrogen. This cocktail trick isn't new, but it does require some extra precautions.

Liquid nitrogen evaporates pretty quickly, and customers are typically warned to avoid drinking their cocktail until it does. But in this case, the bartender allegedly told the young woman to "drink it while it's still smoking." She followed those directions, and could tell immediately that something was wrong.

The woman said she felt an "explosion" in her stomach, followed by extreme pain. After being rushed to the hospital, she underwent emergency surgery to remove her stomach. She still suffers from chronic pain three years later.

Several small events and interactions that night could have gone slightly differently, ultimately changing the outcome. But perhaps the most glaring act of negligence was for the bar to include a cocktail ingredient which employees did not know how to use safely. Recently, the bar was fined the equivalent of about $156,000 after pleading guilty to a criminal charge related to the incident.

It is unclear if a separate civil lawsuit has been filed, will be filed or has already been settled. But after negligence on this scale, such a lawsuit would certainly seem appropriate.

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