By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The parents of the Michigan toddler accidentally served alcohol at an Applebee's restaurant last week have filed suit against the chain's parent company, saying its employees have made similar mistakes with other children.
Taylor Dill-Reese and Dominic Wilson, the parents of 15-month-old Dominic Lacey Wilson, filed the lawsuit late Tuesday in Oakland County, where the restaurant is located.
The suit claims the two suffered emotional distress as a result of the incident and seeks unspecified monetary damages from the company for medical bills and non-economic losses.
Last Friday, the family visited an Applebee's in Madison Heights, Michigan, where -- among other things -- they ordered a child's meal for Dominic Jr. that was supposed to come with apple juice.
What the little boy apparently got instead was a margarita mix with alcohol in it and as he drank it he began exhibiting what the complaint characterizes as "grossly inappropriate" behavior.
When the child was taken to a nearby hospital, he was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.10 -- above Michigan's drunk-driving limit of 0.08. He also suffered "headaches, nausea" and other classic hangover symptoms "for a period of days after the incident," according to the suit.
William Stern, the couple's attorney, told Reuters this was not the first mixup involving alcohol and children at an Applebee's restaurant.
"It's happened to them on multiple occasions," Stern said. "This is an occasion that came really close to being tragic if the child had ingested a little more alcohol. Fortunately they caught it, when the child was acting drunk and the father tasted it and realized it wasn't apple juice."
In a statement, Applebee's parent, California-based DineEquity Inc, cited what it said were "discrepancies" between some of the claims in the lawsuit and information the company had obtained.
It said that, according to the Madison Heights Police Department's report, a field test of the child's drink at the restaurant had registered a 0.014.
"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. According to the police report, the EMTs checked the child at the restaurant and released him.
"Applebee's is cooperating fully with the authorities so that we can better understand the discrepancies in the reports and the conflicting information."
Earlier this week, Applebee's said it would begin to serve apple juice to children only from single-serve containers at the table and would "retrain all severs on our beverage pouring policy, emphasizing that non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages must be stored in completely separate and identified containers."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)