Prosecutor: No charges in toxic tea incident that nearly killed woman at Utah restaurant by Brady McCombs, The Associated Press Posted Sep 26, 2014 10:30 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email SALT LAKE CITY – No charges will be filed in the case of a customer who nearly died after unknowingly drinking iced tea mixed with chemicals at a suburban Salt Lake City restaurant, prosecutors said Friday.But Dickey’s Barbecue isn’t off the hook just yet: Jan Harding and her family will enter into mediation with the restaurant later this year to try to reach a monetary agreement, her attorney said. If that doesn’t work, they’ll file a lawsuit.Harding and her family accept the decision by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill and are glad the investigation is complete, their lawyer Paxton Guymon said.“I agree that there was no intent to injure, but the level of recklessness on a number of fronts was so egregious that it was a train wreck waiting to happen,” Guymon said. “Somebody was going to get hurt. … There was very poor management, poor training. There were a lot of things that could have been differently to prevent this from happening.”The Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. didn’t immediately have any comment. The company earlier said the incident was isolated and unprecedented in the chain’s 73-year history.Authorities have said an employee at Dickey’s Barbecue in South Jordan unintentionally put the heavy-duty cleaner lye in a sugar bag, and another worker on Aug. 10 mistakenly mixed it into an iced-tea dispenser.Later that day, Harding took a single sip of the sweetened iced tea while out to eat with her husband, and suffered deep, ulcerated burns to her esophagus. She was hospitalized in critical condition.Lye, an odourless chemical that looks like sugar, is used for degreasing deep fryers and is the active ingredient in Drano.Harding, 67, spent nearly two weeks in a Salt Lake City hospital. She has been out of the hospital for weeks but still hasn’t regained her sense of taste, her lawyer said.She continues to see doctors about the damage to her esophagus. She also still suffers some emotional distress.“It’s been challenging for her to go out and eat,” Guymon said. “There’s still some lingering anxiety.”Gill said Friday that after an extensive police investigation, prosecutors determined there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.They analyzed more than 700 hours of video from inside the restaurant, along with interviews with several current and former employees and business partners, he said. They also reviewed another lye incident at the restaurant in July, when a worker burned herself when she stuck her finger into a sugar container and licked it to test for the chemical cleaner.“There were certainly errors or mishaps that occurred, but none of that rose to the level of what we were charged to do: Look for criminal charges,” Gill said.Harding’s family is tentatively scheduled to meet with Dickey’s Barbecue representatives in November to see if they can reach a monetary agreement, Guymon said. They also want the chain to change how its restaurants handle dangerous substances to ensure nothing like this happens again, he said.Harding and her Baptist minister husband, Jim Harding, declined to comment Friday. They previously said they were not angry with anyone at Dickey’s and decided to share their story in hopes that other restaurants will take measures to prevent something similar from happening, perhaps by adding colored dye to chemicals.“My clients are really adamant that this is about more than money,” Guymon said. “That’s why the mediation approach is the right one to try at this point. If you go to court, you can’t necessarily force them to adopt some new policy.”
A further 144 areas are deemed in need of improvement, with 53 assessed as performing well and one judged as top performing.The ratings examined stillbirth and neonatal mortality, maternal smoking at the time of delivery, women’s experience of maternity services and women’s choice.Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the National Childbirth Trust, said: “These figures starkly highlight areas where improvement is needed. For example, it is very disappointing that in some parts of the country barely half of women get the maternity care of their choice.”However, she said parents-to-be should not use the figures in isolation to decide where to have a baby.”They are baseline ratings which don’t take into account every aspect of care,” she said. Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a significant amount of data which the RCM will need to consider carefully.”I do, however, welcome the openness and transparency in publishing these ratings. This is a positive step and one that could help women to be informed about the quality of services where they live, and empower them to make more informed decisions about their care.”“Hopefully these ratings will be used to help CCGs learn from the best and to improve quality where that is shown to be needed. “Mr Hunt said: “The government has delivered on its commitment to publish Ofsted-style ratings for key NHS services – the result is transparency which will empower patients and ultimately drive up the quality of care.“We want the NHS to be one of the safest places in the world to have a baby and we recently announced an increase in funding, more training and the ambition to halve levels of stillbirth.“There is more to do, but this is the first time we can see in black and white that in the crucial area of CCG spending we are fulfilling our commitment on parity of esteem, with mental health funding rising faster than overall increases.”Dr Matthew Jolly, NHS England’s national clinical director for maternity, said: “It has never been safer to give birth in this country and the vast majority of women report a good experience, but there is more that we can do.“The ratings published today will help local areas identify where they are doing well and importantly where improvements can be made – helping to ensure women and their families have a good experience wherever they live.”Meanwhile, new analysis of births published by the Office for National Statistics suggests that middle-class women are having more children than those in traditional working-class jobs.Only 17 per cent of babies born in England and Wales last year were to mothers in “routine” or “semi-routine” occupations, while 50 per cent had mothers classed in white-collar professional, managerial or intermediate positions. Another third either did not work or could not be classified.Among older mothers the distinction was even more marked. The figures also showed a fall in the fertility rate among immigrant mothers.A recent audit of maternity services exposed widespread shortages of hospital consultants on labour wards. Britain has one of the highest levels for stillbirths in the Western world Credit:Dominic Lipinksi/PA ‘It is very positive that the Government will be listening to disabled people and their parents on how the NHS can better support families when serious issues do occur during birth’James Taylor, disability charity Scope Baby Joshua Titcombe died after hospital staff failed to provide antibiotics for an infection Three quarters of NHS maternity services are failing, according to the first ever Ofsted-style rankings which reveal just one area has been placed in the top category.The data has been published as part of a transparency drive by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, in an effort to improve Britain’s “shocking” place in international league tables.The UK has higher rates of stillbirth than Poland, Croatia and Estonia, and compensation claims against the NHS for catastrophic blunders in childbirth have tripled in a decade.The new rankings show that 74 per cent of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are providing services which are in need of improvement.The remainder are deemed to be performing well, with just one area – NHS West Kent – achieving the best ranking.The rankings identify 11 areas as the worst for maternity services. They are: Milton Keynes; South Warwickshire; Wolverhampton; Nottingham City; East Riding of Yorkshire; Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield; South Tees; Bradford Districts; Hull; Slough and South Gloucestershire. Almost half of hospitals had no senior doctors at weekends, while three quarters had no consultants working on maternity units at night. Last week Mr Hunt announced new initiatives which aim to improve the safety record of Britain’s maternity units.The Health Secretary said more than 1,000 babies could be saved each year if every NHS trust could match the performance of the best.Promising extra funding for safety training, and today’s ratings of maternity services, Mr Hunt said the UK had higher rates of stillbirth than Poland, Croatia and Estonia.“We are in the bottom third of a global league table of 164 countries for progress on reduction of stillbirths,” he warned, in a speech in London.Mr Hunt said midwives needed to do more to listen and act when concerns were raised by mothers-to-be.Health officials also published rankings of mental health services. These found 60 per cent of areas were in need of improvement, with 34 per cent performing well and just 6 per cent top performing.Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said: “This new level of local transparency is unprecedented for any mental health service anywhere in the world.”Over the next five years, we want to see major improvements in NHS mental services. These figures for last year transparently lay out the starting baseline against which everyone will be able to judge whether the NHS is getting better in each and every town, city and county across England.”In a speech to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Mr Hunt last week said changes were needed to foster a culture of transparency.“Our stillbirth rates are still amongst the highest in Western Europe and many on the front line say there is still too much of a blame culture when things go wrong – often caused by fear of litigation or worry about damage to reputation and careers.” Last week, a report by the Care Quality Commission found that 37 per cent of maternity services were “inadequate” or “require improvement”.Britain has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the Western world, according to international rankings.In November a national study found half of stillbirths occurred after women contacted maternity units because they were fearful that their baby’s movements had slowed, changed or stopped.The clinical commissioning groups with the worst maternity servicesMilton KeynesSouth WarwickshireWolverhamptonNottingham CityEast Riding of YorkshireDurham Dales, Easington and SedgefieldSouth TeesBradford DistrictsHullSlough and South Gloucestershire Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? 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