'Ghost Pepper' Drink Puts Ohio Bar Patron in Hospital

"His nose and his mouth and his lungs felt as though they were on fire"


Mark Gokavi, Dayton Daily News | | Tuesday, November 13, 2012

XENIA, Ohio -- A man is suing a Beavercreek bar for allegedly serving him an alcoholic shot that included extract from "ghost pepper," the hottest naturally grown pepper on Earth, a claim the bar owner says is false.

Brady W. Bennett filed a personal injury complaint in Greene County Common Pleas Court against Adobe Gila's at The Greene for negligence and other claims relating to an incident Dec. 16, 2011 that included a 911 call and an ambulance trip to a hospital.

The suit says Bennett and a friend had two rounds of beer and were asked by Adobe Gila's employees if they wanted a free shot. Bennett's attorney, Jeffrey McQuiston, said the men asked for Patron tequila with some apple flavoring.

"They toast each other and throw it back," McQuiston said. "(Bennett) immediately fell to the ground. His throat felt as though it was swelling shut. His nose and his mouth and his lungs felt as though they were on fire. He had extreme difficulty breathing. And his heart was pounding harder and harder and he thought he was having a heart attack. So he screams for someone to call 911, which they do."

The lawsuit claims an Adobe Gila's employee told paramedics that Bennett was given ghost pepper extract, which is from the Bhut Jolokia plant. The suit said on the Scoville scale of pungency, a habanero chili is between 100,000 to 350,000 whereas the ghost pepper's range is from 855,000 to 1,050,000. U.S. grade pepper spray is between 2 and 5.3 million. McQuiston said Ben-nett's friend immediately ran to the restroom and induced vomiting.

"It wasn't as if they gave him a little Tabasco," McQuiston said. "This stuff is lethal."

Adobe Gila's owner, Steve Cohee, called the lawsuit bogus and said that his bar doesn't make anybody drink anything they didn't order.

"They came in and wanted to do just some kind of crazy shot so my bartender came up with one for them and gave it to them," said Cohee, who said there may have been some kind of hot sauce involved. "We don't even have ghost pepper of any kind in our facility, so there's no ghost pepper in it."

Some restaurants advertise ghost pepper extract and ask customers to sign a liability waiver before serving it on hot wings or other food. Adobe Gila's menu doesn't list ghost pepper extract, but does offer spicy sauces on its boneless wings and Mexican items such as tacos, burritos and enchiladas.

During the 911 call just after 2 a.m., there are sounds of Ben-nett moaning and groaning. A male voice asked, "Are you allergic to hot sauce because she put hot sauce in there." There is no mention of ghost pepper extract during the 911 call.

The suit says Bennett, a mid-30s National Guard veteran from Indiana who lived in Centerville, incurred hospital and medical expenses of $5,178.84 and also asks for compensatory and punitive damages.

"Over the course of the next two weeks, when he has to go to the bathroom, it is an excruciating experience," McQuiston said. "I presume it was a prank, but it was a prank gone very wrong."

Cohee said a week after the incident Bennett posted on a social media website that he had done "some crazy shot at another bar" and that a printout of that had been given to his insurance investigators.

"They offered an insignificant settlement offer," Mc-Quiston said. "We're not going to settle for an insignificant amount of money."

Cohee said he can only turn frivolous lawsuits over to his insurance provider to defend.

"We're not there trying to hurt anyone. Why would we do that?" Cohee said. "We're there to show people a good time and give them relief from the stress of daily life."

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