No criminal charges in Dickey’s BBQ toxic tea incident, but mediation scheduled

Posted at 10:29 AM, Sep 26, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-26 23:25:47-04

SALT LAKE CITY -  Employees and owners of a Dickey's BBQ Pit restaurant in South Jordan escaped criminal charges after a woman was seriously injured after drinking tea contaminated with cleaning chemicals.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney said he will not file charges because there was no evidence of intent to harm or criminal recklessness.

The case in questions involves Jan Harding, a 67-year-old woman who went to the restaurant with her husband on Sunday, August 10. After drinking the tea, she said she immediately felt it had something toxic in it.

For most of the next week, she fought for her life in the intensive care unit at the University of Utah Hospital, suffering severe chemical burns to her mouth, throat and esophagus.

Today, Harding is recovering. She's able to speak, though her sense of taste has not fully returned.jan-harding

"We certainly found mishaps that happened between various parties, but that is not criminal behavior," said District Attorney Sim Gill.

Gill said investigators spent well over a hundred hours looking at video from the restaurant's security cameras. He said they also considered testimony from Rebecca Rankey, who told FOX 13 News she was the person who accidentally mixed the cleaner with sweet tea sugar and told supervisors about her mistake.

"We were looking at what happened," Gill said. "What did people know? When did they know it? What was the extent of their knowledge and what sort of risks did they engage in with the knowledge that was available to them?"

Though the criminal case has been dropped, Gill said a civil action would be an "appropriate avenue" for the Hardings to pursue.

The Harding's lawyer, Paxton Guymon, told FOX 13 News the civil action is underway, though it all may happen behind closed doors.

"I have talked to [Dickey's attorney] about it. They haven't challenged anything I've said on that. And we're going to be participating in a mediation in November to see if we can reach a settlement without even filing a lawsuit," Guymon said.

Guymon said he and the Hardings agree with Gill's decision not to press charges.

"There's no evidence this was an intentional act," Guymon said.

Asked what the Hardings might get in a settlement, Guymon said he would not provide any numbers.

Pressed further by FOX 13  News on whether it might be in the "hundreds of thousands, millions, or tens of millions"  Guymon said, "It's less than tens of millions, but I think it's north of a million."

The Harding family sent FOX 13 News this statement:

We are glad to know that the investigation has been completed, and we respect the District Attorney's decision not to file any criminal charges.  The South Jordan Police Department and the District Attorneys office were very thorough in their investigation and their analysis, and we appreciate all that they have done.  Jan continues to improve and recover. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support.

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