Thrown Shrimp Blamed in Death of N.Y. Restaurant Patron

January 13, 2006

The family of a 43-year-old Long Island, N.Y. man is seeking $10 million in damages, claiming he died months after ducking a flying shrimp tossed by a hibachi chef at a Japanese steakhouse.

Attorney Andre Ferenzo said in opening statements in state Supreme Court on Wednesday that Jerry Colaitis, 43, of Old Brookville, wrenched his neck when he ducked to avoid the shrimp tossed by the chef at a Benihana restaurant in Munsey Park.

Colaitis then died from complications caused by neck surgery he required afterward, he said.

The incident occurred in January 2001. Colaitis went to a chiropractor and three neurosurgeons, and underwent surgery at NYU Medical Center in June, 2001, Ferenzo said. There were complications and he had numbness in his arm, the lawyer said. On Nov. 21 of that year, Colaitis checked into St. Francis Hospital in Rosyln with a 105-degree fever. He died the next day.

Charles Connick, a lawyer for Benihana, contended it was unlikely a chef who works for tips would toss food at customers after being asked not to, as Ferenzo claimed.

Even so, he said, the cause of Colaitis’ death was an infection or neck injury unrelated to the shrimp, Newsday reported.

“The evidence will show that the manner of death was natural,” said Connick.

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