A woman is suing the historic Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown, alleging she was severely burned when she was struck in 2017 by a fireball during a bartender’s preparation of a flaming drink.
Jennifer Lehoang alleges negligence and ultra-hazardous activity in the Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit filed Thursday. Her husband and fellow plaintiff, James O’Dowd, maintains he suffered emotional distress from witnessing the incident as well as a loss of consortium. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
A Clifton’s representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The suit states that the couple were patrons of the restaurant, located for decades on South Broadway, on Nov. 11, 2017. They were standing by the bar when the bartender made a flaming drink called a Scorpion Bowl, in which the ingredients are ignited during the preparation, the suit alleges.
Suddenly, a ball of fire “flew from the area of the drink under (preparation) and hit Lehoang on multiple locations on her body,” including her arm, one hand, her hair, neck and chest, the suit alleges.
“James, in horror, directly witnessed his wife on fire and helped her to the ground (to) extinguish the flames that were burning her,” the suit states.
Lehoang was severely burned and left with permanent, disfiguring injuries that need daily treatment, the suit states. Her injuries have diminished her ability “to function as a wife to O’Dowd,” the suit states.
The preparation of flaming drinks so close to customers in the darkly lit bar amounted to an ultra-hazardous activity, according to the lawsuit.