Father of boy who ingested lye at Lancaster County restaurant files lawsuit

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LANCASTER — The father of a 10-year-old boy who was sickened after ingesting apple juice contaminated with lye at a Lampeter Township restaurant earlier this year has filed a civil lawsuit against the business owner.

The suit, which lists Richard Zaragoza Sr. and Richard Zaragosa Jr. as plantiffs, was filed in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas on July 20. The defendant is listed as Weng’s Star Buffet LLC, doing business as Star Buffet & Grill.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of financial compensation. The plaintiffs and defendant are currently negotiating the terms of a potential settlement, the lawsuit states.

Richard Zaragoza and his sister, Gianya Mercado, 4, both suffered burns to their throats after drinking apple juice from foam cups during a birthday party at the restaurant on March 3. An investigation determined that the children were sickened by crystal lye that had somehow gotten on the cups.

The children were hospitalized for two weeks.


The lawsuit states that Richard Zaragoza Jr. is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and that his injuries have worsened the condition. He recently spent three weeks in the hospital at Hershey Medical Center, the lawsuit states.

Richard Zaragoza Sr. is the sole legal guardian of his son, and was the primary provider of his medical care, the lawsuit states. Because of the nature of the disorder, a caretaker must constantly be present in case breathing becomes difficult. Because Richard Zaragoza’s condition worsened as a result of his injuries, he required more intense care. As a result, the lawsuit says, Richard Zaragoza Sr. is no longer able to maintain full-time employment.

A long-term relationship with his girlfriend also dissolved because of the extra time Richard Zaragoza Sr. had to dedicate to caring for his son, the lawsuit said.

Richard Zaragoza Sr. also requested that the court grant him a temporary loan of $15,000 to allow he and his son to maintain a modest apartment while settlement negotiations with the defendants continue, the lawsuit says.


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