Too hot to handle: Restaurant’s spicy dish results in a burning personal injury lawsuit

Too hot to handle: Restaurant’s spicy dish results in a burning personal injury lawsuit

A California woman is suing Coup de Thai, a Los Gatos Thai restaurant for negligence and personal distress after consuming a popular entree called Dragon Balls. The plaintiff is currently seeking general damages, as well as remuneration for her medical bills, lost earnings, and attorneys’ fees.

Playing with fire

The complainant, San Jose neurologist Harjasleen Walia, alleges that she consumed said Dragon Balls in July 2021 and has subsequently suffered “permanent bodily injuries” two years and counting from the date of consumption. She also claims that the entree is “unfit for human consumption” and “dangerous to life,” and she has stated that the staff at Coup de Thai was unprepared to deal with Walia’s reaction to the spicy food.

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Mise en place

The dish in question is a spicy fried chicken ball filled with Thai chilies, mint, shallots, green onion, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves. It’s one of the few dishes on the Coup de Thai menu that is marked with a chili logo (to indicate that it is spicy), although a glaring Yelp review states that a recent visitor, motivated by the fact that the restaurant was sued for being too spicy, found the dish “not spicy at all.”

It is also perhaps worth pointing out that Coup de Thai advertises that they are “never afraid to take bold risks.” Also, a quick Google search reveals that the distinguishing quality of Thai food is its spiciness.

Is it a “you” problem?

In the 14-page complaint filed at the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Ms. Walia claims that upon ingestion of the Dragon Balls, she immediately “felt her entire mouth, the roof of her mouth, her tongue, and her nose burn like fire.” She also claims that she incurred chemical burns on her vocal cords, the middle concha of her right nostril, and her esophagus because of the dish.

It should be noted that the plaintiff was made aware that the dish contained Thai chilies, but she proceeded to order the dish even though “she does not tolerate spice.” For context, Thai chilies register at 50,000–100,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), which are considered to be “Hot.” In comparison, jalapeños are considered to be “Medium” at 2,500–5,000 SHU, while the Carolina Reaper, considered to be the spiciest pepper in existence, is “Extremely Hot” at over 2,000,000 SHU. SHU represents the number of times the concentration of capsaicinoids (the spicy stuff) needs to be diluted before it is no longer detected.

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It was also unclear from the court documents whether the complainant stopped eating after experiencing pain and discomfort from the dish, or if she proceeded to finish the whole serving. The lawsuit is also directed at over two dozen people, including people who were responsible for preparing and serving the dish, as well as anyone who may have influenced, designed, or participated in creating the offending entree.

Personal injury is never a laughing matter, and by enlisting the services of Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams, you can be assured that your rights are upheld and that you receive the best legal advice possible. Contact us today to learn how we can help with your personal injury or family law case.