FLORENCE, Ky. – A Florence couple is suing First Watch claiming a restaurant employee gave the then-pregnant wife a to-go cup filled with degreaser instead of the green tea she ordered.
"Luckily, I had a healthy baby, but even now we don't know," Traci Hall said Wednesday while watching her 9-month-old son Cole. "There's no one that could tell us what this could do long-term."
Hall was six months pregnant when she left the First Watch at 7727 Mall Road, walked into the parking lot and took a gulp from the lidded cup.
"I took a big drink of it and immediately my esophagus, my throat, my mouth was burning," she said.
Here’s what happened after that, according to the lawsuit:
Hall immediately went inside and asked her server what was in the cup.
The server found the busboy who filled it and asked where he got it.
The three of them walked into the kitchen and the busboy pointed to the spigot on the wall next to the drink refill station.
Another server saw the busboy point at the spigot and said, “That’s degreaser.”
At that point, Hall was "shaking and panicked."
READ the lawsuit here.
A call to poison control and trips to two different hospitals later, and still no one knew what impact it would have on her unborn baby.
"The rest of my pregnancy, instead of being so excited and joyful, it kind of robbed us," Hall said. "This is our first baby, you know, so we wanted it to be such a joyful time, and I spent the rest of the time in panic mode."
The degreaser, called Greasestrip Plus, consists of sodium hydroxide, a “toxic commercial cleaning product,” the lawsuit says. Sodium hydroxide can be corrosive and deadly.
The safety data sheet published by the maker, EcoLab, does not indicate if Greasestrip Plus is dangerous to unborn babies when swallowed by the mother.
Hall feared she and her baby had been poisoned, according to the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Boone Circuit Court. She went to the emergency room at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence, then to the Triage Center at St. Elizabeth, so she could be put on a baby monitor, according to the lawsuit.
“The monitoring did not reveal any detectable problems with Traci’s baby,” the lawsuit says. Nevertheless, for the next three months, she “experienced severe emotional distress, anxiety and sleeplessness.”
Three months after the incident on June 11, 2017, Hall delivered Cole on Sept. 26, 2017, the suit says, and the child “appears to be developing normally.”
“Doctors have not been able to detect any problems that can be directly attributed to Traci’s ingestion of sodium hydroxide; however, Traci still worries about possible long-term effects to either her or her son,” according to the suit.
Traci and her husband, Brian Hall, said they waited a year before filing suit because they were negotiating. Their medical bills from that day topped $5,000 and First Watch offered them $1,000, they said.
"A thousand dollars? We went to multiple hospitals and doctors appointments because of this, and you're going to offer us a thousand dollars? It was a slap in the face," said Brian Hall.
WCPO reached out to First Watch Restaurants for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson at the corporate offices in Florida, Eleni Kouvatsos, responded by saying:
“First Watch has not been notified of any newly filed suit regarding this incident. Therefore, we have nothing to share at this time.”
NKY Health has no complaints for that First Watch location since it opened in 2015.