Couple sues Applebee's for giving boy booze

MADISON HEIGHTS (AP) -- The Applebee's restaurant chain publicly apologized Wednesday after a 15-month-old boy was served alcohol mislabeled as apple juice when his family dined at one of its Detroit-area restaurants, but it questioned conflicting reports about the child's blood alcohol level.

The Kansas-based company, which has changed the way apple juice is served at tables, is cooperating with authorities to "better understand" what it said were discrepancies in police reports and conflicting information included in a lawsuit filed by the child's family, a spokeswoman said. The boy was given a margarita last Friday at a restaurant in Madison Heights.

"There are discrepancies between what's been widely reported and the information we've obtained," company spokeswoman Nancy Mays said in a statement Wednesday.

"According to the Madison Heights Police Department's report, its field test at the restaurant checked the drink and it registered a .014. This contrasts with what's been widely reported and claimed in the lawsuit -- that the child had a blood alcohol content of .10 and was rushed to the hospital," she said. "According to the police report, the EMTs checked the child at the restaurant and released him."

A lawyer for parents Taylor Dill-Reese and Dominic Wilson said there was no question that their son Dominic Jr. got drunk from a margarita mistakenly served him by the restaurant. William Stern told The Associated Press that a blood test conducted at Beaumont Hospital showed that the boy had a 0.10 percent blood alcohol. Michigan law defines anything over 0.08 percent blood alcohol as drunk.

Both parents are under 21, and neither ordered alcohol with the meal, said Stern. And he said the police officer who tested the drink used a portable breathalyzer machine that is incapable of analyzing the alcohol content of a liquid.

Stern said that while no one intended to harm the boy, "it easily could have ended tragically" because he weighs only 20 pounds and could have been poisoned by a small amount of alcohol. Stern said the fact that Applebee's changed its procedures companywide after the incident shows it believes it made a mistake.

The parents filed the lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit said the toddler felt ill for days but is expected to be fine. His parents are seeking money damages for emotional distress and medical expenses.

Authorities have said the boy began acting strangely after receiving what was supposed to be juice along with a burger and fries. Police later determined that it was margarita mix from a mislabeled bottle.

"We've changed our procedures by switching to pouring apple juice only from single-serve containers served at the table," Mays said.

The company also said it also plans to retrain employees.

Published: Fri, Apr 15, 2011