NJ country club has surprising response to lawsuit over wine spilled on $30K purse

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NJ country club has surprising response to lawsuit over wine spilled on $30K purse

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NJ country club has surprising response to lawsuit over wine spilled on $30K purse

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After an Alpine woman sued a Bergen country club for $30,000 in damages when a waiter spilled wine on her ultra-expensive purse, the country club has responded by suing the waiter, records show.

In a response to the Oct. 29 lawsuit filed by Maryana Beyder against the Alpine Country Club, the country club denied almost every one of Beyder’s allegations — including that it was liable for the damage to her Hermès Kelly bag — and capped off the response by suing its own employee, according to court records.

The action is called a cross-claim, where one defendant sues another in the same proceeding.

“So basically what this is is that they’re asking the employee to pay whatever they owe under the law to my client,” said Alexandra Errico, Beyder’s attorney. “So they’re suing their own employee that they hired.”

Calls to Kenneth Merber, the attorney for the country club, were not immediately returned.

The response filed Thursday is the latest in a year-long tug-of-war between the club and Beyder after a dinner went awry, allegedly leaving a luxury handbag irreversibly damaged.

On Sept. 7, 2018, Beyder was having a meal at the Alpine Country Club in Demarest when a waiter spilled red wine on the pink handbag, according to the lawsuit. The handbag was rare — having been discontinued — and essentially irreplaceable. The bag was a 30th-birthday gift for Beyder from her husband, Errico said.

For nearly a year, Beyder tried to resolve the issue with the country club directly, the lawyer said. But the club dragged out the discussions and stopped being responsive, she said. Even the insurance company was dismissive, failing to understand why a bag would cost so much, she said.

While Errico acknowledged that the waiter’s spill was an accident, she clarified that any lawsuit needs to describe in detail what happened, in this case specifying who spilled the wine, causing the damages, she said. The waiter was not named in Beyder’s lawsuit, being called only “John Doe.”

“The way the story read is that somehow we’re blaming the employee,” Errico said. “We’re not. Not at all. You go to any restaurant. You have a leather jacket on. 100 dollars. 50 dollars. 20 dollars. If a waiter spills on it and it’s destroyed, you’re expecting the restaurant to compensate you for that particular item.”

Louis Pechman, an employment attorney who says he has handled at least 200 restaurant-pay lawsuits, said the waiter should not be liable.

“In general, the labor laws protect waiters from having deductions from their wages because of breakage, walkout or other issues that are really the responsibility of the restaurant or the catering hall,” said Pechman, who founded WaiterPay, a website that promotes awareness of restaurant employee rights.

For now, there is nothing for the waiter to do except wait until he’s identified and served, Pechman said. At that point, the waiter will likely have to hire a lawyer himself, he said.

But Pechman sees the cross-claim as unusual and flying in the face of human resources policy that should side with the employee.

“This type of a cross-claim is unheard of,” he said. “Good human resources policy would dictate that the restaurant has the employee’s back, rather than sticking the knife in his back.”

Hermès handbags are often priced in the tens of thousands. In 2017, a Hermès handbag sold at an auction in Hong Kong for $377,000, breaking the world record for most expensive bag sold at auction.

“They did not have to sue their own employee,” Errico said. “It basically shows that they really are acting in bad faith.”

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