A flying shrimp cost a Long Island man his life, court papers charge.
Jacqueline Colaitis, the widow of fur magnate Jerry Colaitis (search), says in a $10 million lawsuit that her husband died in November 2001 as a result of injuries he suffered nearly 10 months earlier — while ducking a piece of shrimp flung by a "playful" chef at a Benihana restaurant.
"This was a man who was in good health until this incident," said Colaitis' lawyer, Andre Ferenzo. Ducking the shrimp, however, caused a neck injury that required surgery — and the operation caused an infection that took Colaitis' life, Ferenzo said.
"He would not have died if not for his injury," the lawyer said.
Benihana (search) lawyer Andrew Kaufman said his client "expects to be vindicated from these claims, either on appeal or at trial."
In court papers, the restaurant alleges Colaitis was not dodging the shrimp, but was hurt trying to catch one with his mouth.
Nassau Supreme Court Justice Roy Mahon (search) has refused the restaurant's bid to throw the wrongful-death claims out for now, finding that "there is an issue of fact as to whether the events of Jan. 27, 2001, were the proximate cause of Jerry Colaitis' death on Nov. 22, ."
Colaitis, who used the name Jerry Cola professionally, co-owned several fur stores and lived in a palatial estate in a tony section of Old Brookville.
Ferenzo said Colaitis, 47, had gone to Benihana's Munsey Park branch with his family to celebrate one of his young son's birthdays.
They were seated at one of the restaurant's hibachi tables, where customers can watch their flashy chefs cook their meals directly in front of them.
Ferenzo said the chef "started tossing the food and was flinging cooked shrimp. The first one hit [Colaitis'] son and burned him," Ferenzo said.
The judge's decision says the chef continued to toss shrimp after being asked to stop, "throwing/tossing a piece of shrimp at [Colaitis] towards his head. [Colaitis] moved/jerked his head out of the way, allegedly resulting in injury to his neck."