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Woman who drank lye-laced tea reaches deal with restaurant

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah woman has reached a settlement with a barbecue chain restaurant where she unknowingly drank iced tea mixed with chemicals and nearly died.

Dickey’s Barbecue and Jan Harding issued a joint statement this week announcing they came to terms on an agreement that will lead to extensive changes at the business to ensure such an incident never happens again.

They declined to disclose how much money Harding, 67, received or any details of the deal. Attorneys for both sides weren’t immediately available for comment.

A worker inadvertently mixed an industrial cleaning solution, lye, into an iced tea dispenser at a Dickey’s in the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan. Harding drank tea from the dispenser Aug. 10 and suffered deep, ulcerated burns to her esophagus.

Lye, an odorless chemical that looks like sugar, is used for degreasing deep fryers and is the active ingredient in Drano.

Harding was hospitalized for two weeks, and was in critical condition for several days.

The settlement was first reported by KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City.

Prosecutors decided in September not to file charges in the incident, saying there were errors and mishaps but no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Harding and her family said then they accepted the decision by Salt Lake County Attorney Sim Gill, and that they were focused on working with Dickey’s so the restaurant implemented procedures to avoid the same thing happening to somebody else.

The Dallas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. has said the incident was isolated and unprecedented in the chain’s 73-year history. The company has more than 400 restaurants across the country.

The company and Harding said in the statement that they are pleased they were able to come to an agreement and avoid a lawsuit. They say all interactions since the incident have been friendly.

“Everyone involved is grateful that Ms. Harding has made a good recovery since the accident,” the statement says.

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