When Cynthia Pereles took her 5-year-old son, Seth, to Applebee's in New York City last July, she said she expected nothing more than a nice dinner out of the house.
But somehow, she said her son was given a sippy cup full of Long Island Iced Tea -- a concoction of rum, gin, vodka, triple sec, coke and sweet-and-sour mix -- rather than the apple juice he'd ordered. Now Pereles is suing the restaurant for $75,000 for nervous shock and mental anguish after the child ended up in the emergency room.
"It's the lack of accountability that shocks me," Pereles said. "They put themselves out there like the neighborhood grill and 'oh take the kids to Applebee's," but then they booze up the kids and blame you for being a bad parent."
After taking a sip of the drink, Seth told his mother that it "tasted nasty" but Pereles told him to drink his juice. Seth was overtired and had been annoying the waiter.
"I mean within minutes his eyes were glazed, he started behaving so peculiar, laughing uncontrollably, licking the bread basket that was on the table, he just wasn't himself," Pereles said. "It was very clear to me that he was under the influence of alcohol."
Seth took two sips from the drink before Pereles stopped him. She confronted the manager, who she said allowed her to have the meal for free after demanding her name, phone number, and Social Security number.
Applebee's issued a statement, which said "immediately following the incident last year, we took appropriate actions to ensure this situation will not happen again. … We look forward to resolving the situation."
Seth is now in therapy, and his mother said he was suffering from nightmares he called "Applebee's Dreams."
Pereles said he also drew pictures of a little boy drowning, and often asked her: "Why did this happen to me?"
Critics said that Pereles should have sued Applebee's sooner after the incident, but her attorney Stephen Krawitz said they had been hoping to settle and had decided to sue at the end of December after Applebee's had refused to cooperate.
"It's negligence, and pouring a five-liquor drink into a sippy cup is gross negligence," he said. "We tried settling the case with them. They've sort of shifted the burden and said that because Cynthia called the ambulance 'cause her son was drunk, that's her fault that he was traumatized by the ambulance and the hospital. He's undergoing psychological counseling, so it is a real injury. They were sort of concerned that because he wasn't physically injured in a more dramatic way that it's just sort of not a big deal."
Applebee's apologized and fired the waiter, but Pereles said that was not enough.
"No, at this point it's not enough," she said. "The representative from Applebee's and the insurance company seems to think that it's my fault. They're placing the blame on me that my son needs to go see a therapist because he has nightmares or because he feels this whole thing is his fault because he ordered an apple juice. To me, that's unacceptable."