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Leeds bar owner fined £20,000 for serving beer mixed with caustic soda

07/01/2016

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United Kingdom

The bar was fined after inadvertently serving beer laced with caustic soda, leading to a man needing to have his oesophagus removed.

Two separate fines have been imposed on a bar in Leeds that inadvertently served beer laced with caustic soda, causing a Spanish TV Producer to have his oesophagus removed, in Leeds Magistrates' Court today.  

The New Conservatory bar and restaurant in Leeds city centre was fined £5,000 for failing to protect the health and safety of its customers. The owner of the bar, Mr Nicholas Bird, also admitted guilt. He was fined £20,000 by District Judge Kitson.

Both were also ordered to pay costs of £8,932.50, plus the maximum victim surcharge of £120 each.

In sentencing, Judge Kitson acknowledged that the incident was tragic but inadvertent and that Mr Caminal was now living with mental scars and living changing injuries.

Ms Jill Greenfield from Fieldfisher law firm will now pursue a civil claim for damages on Mr Caminal's behalf.

On 19 July 2014, Spanish TV & film producer David Caminal, who lives in Barcelona, was filming a commercial in Leeds when he visited the bar with his clients. The caustic soda was mistakenly mixed with the beer and served in a glass to the unsuspecting guest.

Having swallowed the beer and immediately suffering excruciating pain, he was rushed to intensive care at Leeds Infirmary with severe internal injuries. His conditional was described as critical and his family, who flew in from Spain, was warned that he might not survive.

Mr Caminal was placed into an induced coma for 10 days. When he regained consciousness, although there were some signs of improvement, it was obvious he had suffered grave internal injuries. He was then flown by medical flight back to Barcelona where he remained under medical care. He was fed by tube every day and found it difficult even to swallow his own saliva.  Eventually, it was decided that his oesophagus (the tube that links the throat to the stomach) should be removed and a new organ rebuilt linking into his stomach.

Because the surgery carries a high mortality rate, the Spanish government had to give special permission before it could go ahead. His family, including his elderly mother, kept up their vigil at his bedside. 

In a statement compiled with his legal team at Fieldfisher, detailing his physical condition since the accident, Mr Caminal made clear that he finds it very difficult to eat solid food.  He now has to minutely regulate his meals since his stomach is so damaged, and must eat tiny meals regularly throughout the day. He finds it difficult to consume enough nutrients to keep going and suffers from tiredness and dizziness. Every day, he has to chew food excessively and then rest to digest it.

He has to take sleeping pills and daily medication to add digestion. Once a month, probably for the rest of his life, Mr Caminal will need to go to his doctor to be injected with Vitamin B.

But one of Mr Caminal's main concerns is the effect all this has on his 11-year-old daughter.

"She always has to worry about me, listen to me vomiting and coughing, scared that I will choke in my sleep," he said. "That's not something a young girl should have to cope with.

"Most of the time, I'm aware that I am different now and must always be extremely careful. On the odd occasion I do get out to meet friends socially, I'm always checking out where the toilets are because, at some point, I will have to run to them. On the positive side, I suppose I'm lucky to be alive at all."

To make matters worse, Mr Caminal can no longer do the job he loved because it is too physically demanding, requiring stamina he simply does not have.  Instead, he works a few hours a week as a local city councillor, primarily as therapy since it allows him to mix with people without food being the focus for meeting.  At night he still has to sleep in a semi-recumbent position.

Leeds City Council, which prosecuted TNC Café Bars and Music Ltd for failure to discharge its duty under the health and safety at work act, said they take cases like this extremely seriously.

On hearing the guilty plea today, Jill Greenfield from law firm Fieldfisher said she is pleased to see that Leeds City Council prosecuted both the bar and the owner of the bar. Ms Greenfield will now pursue a civil claim against the bar and the bar owner for damages on Mr Caminal's behalf.

"This is a remarkable and terrible case. It could have been anyone that day. Simply going for a pint of beer has led to tragic consequences.

My client's life has changed dramatically. His family has also had an extremely stressful time. The simple act of eating is now a real challenge and I would hope that at the very least highlighting this case will mean that others check to ensure that proper safety measures are in place."

Ms Greenfield will now work to secure Mr Caminal a settlement to help him cope with his new way of life. 

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