A woman who was burned when an Upper West Side bartender used Bacardi 151 rum for a pyrotechnic display can go ahead with a lawsuit against the maker of the high-proof beverage, a state appeals panel ruled yesterday, affirming a lower court’s order refusal to dismiss the case against the company. The Appellate Division, First Department, panel, which consisted of Justices James M. Catterson (See Profile), Rosalyn H. Richter (See Profile), Sallie Manzanet-Daniels (See Profile) and Nelson S. Roman (See Profile), agreed with Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman (See Profile) that the woman, Lauren Sclafani, had a case. She alleged that, although Bacardi put a warning label on the rum saying that it was highly flammable, it had promoted its use in flaming drinks and had installed a flame arrester in the bottle that a bartender could easily remove (NYLJ, May 28, 2010).
Bacardi argued that it could not be liable for the bartender’s actions. The First Department panel disagreed. “The motion court properly concluded that under the circumstances plaintiff has viable claims for both negligence and strict liability based on defective design,” the panel wrote in Sclafani v. Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Inc., 115551/08. “Bacardi has submitted no evidence substantively contradicting the facts set forth in the complaint or in the affidavits of plaintiff’s experts.” Ms. Scalfani’s lawsuit also targets the restaurant where she suffered the injury, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ.