Two men who claimed they were scalded by "exploding" escargot at a San Rafael restaurant have been served a court ruling nearly as scathing.

Judge Roy Chernus dismissed "with prejudice" a negligence lawsuit filed by Chadwick St.-OHarra and Steve Righetti, who claimed their snails ruptured at Seafood Peddler last June, splattering their faces and shirts with hot garlic butter.

St.-OHarra also accused restaurant staff of "indifference" and "friggin' rudeness" in the immediate aftermath.

After the restaurant's insurer rejected their claim, the men sued for a $7,500 judgment for alleged negligence, pain and suffering. The defendants were Richard Mayfield and Manuel Camacho, two supervisors at the restaurant.

Chernus heard the case in a small claims trial on Dec. 3 and mailed his decision to the defendants this week. The two-page decision, laced with legal precedent and Latin jargon, said St.-OHarra and Righetti failed to meet their burden of proof.

Citing the case of Mexicali Rose v. Superior Court -- a 1992 California Supreme Court decision concerning a chicken bone found in a restaurant enchilada -- Chernus said there is a "reasonable expectation of the presence and, thus potential personal injury, due to hot grease in orders of escargot which are prepared and served with 'hot garlic butter.'"

Moreover, Chernus noted, Righetti watched a snail burst when St.-OHarra stuck a cocktail fork in -- then did the same thing himself, with precisely the same result.


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"There was absolutely no evidence whatsoever on what caused the escargot to spontaneously splatter grease upon being touched by the plaintiffs," Chernus wrote. "There was no evidence that Seafood Peddler did not exercise reasonable care in the preparation or service of the escargot."

"As unfortunate as it was for plaintiffs being splattered with hot grease, they are not entitled to a judgment against defendant as no breach of duty was established by the evidence presented," the judge concluded.

St.-OHarra, 59, of Danville, and Righetti, a 59-year-old Sonoma resident, said they were still waiting to see the ruling Wednesday.

At Seafood Peddler, which has reported a surge in escargot sales since the lawsuit became international news, owner Al Silvestri said the decision feels "good."

"That's what I thought it was gonna be anyway," he said. "I wasn't surprised."

Contact Gary Klien via e-mail at gklien@marinij.com To see more of The Marin Independent Journal or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.marinij.com/. Copyright (c) 2010, The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com, e-mail services@mctinfoservices.com, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544)