Jose Lambiet

Did Miami Beach charity cocktail ravage socialite’s system? Jury will decide

A lawsuit originally filed two years ago by a woman who says a sip from a fancy smoking cocktail at a Miami Beach charity fundraiser caused a torn esophagus and holes in several internal organs is headed to trial.

A three-week jury trial has been scheduled in a Miami-Dade County court for this fall, with socialite Barbara Kaufman claiming the cocktail served to her during a Miami Beach Botanical Garden fundraiser caused more than $250,000 in medical expenses.

While the award, if there is any, will be decided by the jury, Kaufman’s camp says it will be in the millions.

You can’t go out in Miami Beach these days before being presented cocktails with a fog pouring out. The smoke is caused by a couple drops of liquid nitrogen, which must be handled with care.

The nitrogen in Kaufman’s drink wasn’t fully dissolved, she says.

“She almost died,” said Mark Brumer, her lawyer. “She ended up in intensive care for two weeks. Now, her voice is really raspy and she suffers lingering gastro-intestinal problems. Her whole life was changed.”

Brumer originally sued the botanical garden as well as cocktail nitrogen maker Kryogenifex and the Miami Beach restaurant HaVen.

The cocktail was served at the garden’s major yearly fundraiser, Taste of The Garden. That’s where restaurants from throughout the area serve donors their best foods and drinks. Kaufman got her drink at the HaVen booth.

Since the filing of the complaint, however, HaVen was dismissed as a defendant, partly because the 50-gallon barrel of nitrogen used at the party was purchased by botanical garden executive director Sandy Shapiro.

“Sandy testified she was not aware it was dangerous,” Brumer said. “Indeed, there are no regulations when it comes to use of nitrogen in restaurants.

“And there needs to be some.”

An attorny for the botanical garden declined to comment.

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