Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Man Sues Restaurant for Ghost-Pepper Burger Induced Coma and Injury

Eating competitions or challenges are not always about quantity, like the famous Ol' 96er from the Great Outdoors. A relatively recent trend involves spicy food -- specifically the heat of the ghost pepper. A quick Youtube search for "Ghost Pepper Challenge" will bring up countless videos of individuals attempting to eat the incredibly hot fruit, and generally failing to not remark on the pain.

However, ghost peppers can be downright dangerous. In San Mateo, California, a restaurant was recently sued after a patron slipped into a two week coma and suffered a severe tear in his esophagus after eating their special ghost pepper burger. The lawsuit alleges that the patron was not warned about the extreme spiciness of the ghost pepper burger, although he was told that there would be a reward for finishing it, and that he would have his photo taken and posted on the "Wall of Fame."

How Hot Is It?

Ghost peppers have been widely regarded as one of the world's hottest peppers. As far as spiciness ratings go (yes there is an actual standardized rating system for spiciness), a ghost pepper is at about 1,000,000 units, while a normal jalapeƱo pepper will score about 5,000 units.

As a result of eating the ghost pepper burger, the injured California man ran out of the restaurant vomiting. Doctors believe that the vomiting, caused by his body's natural reaction to get rid of the ghost pepper, is what caused the hole in his esophagus. While there is no mention of any release or waiver form being signed by the plaintiff, reports indicate that the restaurant usually maintained a practice of securing a release before serving their other famously spicy XXX habanero burger.

This Californian isn't the first person to sue over inadvertently being ghost peppered. Nearly two years ago, the private security guard to one of Doris Duke's heirs, sued the family after the then 17-year-old tobacco heir spiked his food with ghost pepper. The security guard suffered a violent physical reaction, quit shortly after, then filed suit.

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