In New York, the popular Shawarma King deli was turned upside down after someone spotted what appeared to be a non-Kosher hot dog being prepared in the kitchen. Chaos ensued as Jewish patrons surrounded the staff. In the video below, a deli worker fends off a group of around 100 irate patrons with an electric knife. Notably, this type of accident has led to litigation, as discussed below.
A patron and a rabbi noticed what they thought was non-Kosher frankfurters on the grill with a package that did not look Kosher. They raised the alarm with the lunch crowd. That is when the crowd surged and the electric knife came out. The patron stated: “I was petrified – stuff was going through my mind, I want to live. I don’t want to get stabbed for a hot dog.”
Borough Park resident Yosi Stern who certified the restaurant as Kosher has investigated and declared the matter an innocent mistake of a worker going to the wrong store when he was sent out for more hot dogs. He insisted that the owner is “a very religious man. He studies every morning, and he’s not the type of guy to fool people.”
The presence of non-Kosher food, however, led to the restaurant being shutdown for days as a team of rabbis combed through the premises to cleanse it. All of the equipment that came into contact with the errant hot dogs was ripped out of the kitchen and thrown away. The utensils were cleansed with a flame to purge them of contamination.
What I find fascinating is, if a patron had eaten the hot dog, what the liability might be. Negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress come to mind. In Washington, we had such a case where Mark and Judy Siegel, their daughter, Rebecca Siegel Baron, and son-in-law, Craig Baron sued the popular Ridgewells caterers when they included shrimp at a sushi bar in what was supposed to be a kosher wedding. A Rabbi Michael Berenbaum also joined the lawsuit. They charged Ridgewells as violating the District’s Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting its ability to serve a kosher meal as well breach of contract, battery and negligent infliction of emotional distress and asks for $150,000 ($27,500 the Siegels paid in a deposit to Ridgewells and treble the $41,000 that the catering cost ‹ along with punitive damages). There is no record of how this case turned out.
Here is how the court described the facts:
Unfortunately, the catering at the wedding reception did not go as planned. The sushi platters that Ridgewells served, which were prepared by Sushi USA, contained shrimp, a non-kosher food item. Ridgewells removed this sushi platter upon discovery, replacing it with new sushi platters, which plaintiffs contend contained other non-kosher items such as octopus and eel. While none of the plaintiffs recall eating any non-kosher sushi, the Siegels and Barons were upset that the sushi platter contained shrimp. Furthermore, they believed that Ridgewells made the canapes with cream cheese, instead of with non-dairy margarine. The Siegels voiced their complaints to Ms. Silberstein during the reception. Specifically, Mr. Siegel confronted Ms. Silberstein in the downstairs food service area about the cream cheese on the canapes. At some point, Mr. Siegel relayed his beliefs about dairy being served to his family and other wedding guests.
. . . Later in the evening, Mr. Siegel went to the serving area and inquired about the remaining wine, which the Siegels had purchased themselves. Whether Ridgewells’ employees were collecting the wines or attempting to steal them is a disputed fact, but it is undisputed that Mr. Siegel accused the employees of stealing the wine.
To prevail on the the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, the plaintiffs had to show (1) that Ridgewells acted negligently, (2) that plaintiffs suffered either a physical impact or were within the “zone of danger” of Ridgewells’ actions, and (3) that plaintiffs suffered emotional distress that was “serious and verifiable.” The court rejected it on the last element and found it was not serious or verifiable.
On battery, the Rabbi claimed that he came into contact with the non-Kosher food, but the court found no evidence that he came into contact with the food, making the issue moot. It is not clear, had such evidence existed, if the court would have found a viable claims.
The court also rejected the third claim of intentional interference with prospective economic advantage as “openly general and imprecise claim.” Judge Richard Leon, therefore, granted summary judgment for the caterer in large part. It is not clear what happened to the rest of the case, but these were the main tort claims. The case was Siegel v. Ridgewell, 511 F. Supp. 2d 188 (D.D.C. 2007).
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