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Woman Awarded $102K After 'Hot and Spicy' Pasta Fight Goes Horribly Wrong

Former real estate attorney James P. Sweeney actually meant to hit another guy—and he says he only threw the pasta in self-defense.

Jelisa Castrodale

Photo via Flickr user Katie Inglis

If you want to drop bank on dinner, you could do worse than the $270 tasting menu at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, or the $450 omakase selection at Masa, the most expensive restaurant in the US. Or you could have the bowl of pasta at Roma Ristorante in Oakville, Connecticut, that ultimately cost one man over $100,000.

In March 2015, now-retired real estate attorney James P. Sweeney got into a heated argument with another man while they ate at the Italian restaurant. Rather than sit down, shake it off and finish his meal, Sweeney instead picked up his pasta with fra diavolo sauce and threw it at Michael Cosmos.

He hit Cosmos with the pasta, but he also hit 57-year-old Constance Koulmey, who fell and hit her head. According to the Connecticut Law Tribune, the spicy fra diavolo sauce burned her eyes—partially contributing to her fall—and she also suffered “a concussion, blurred vision and radiating back pain.” She filed a lawsuit against Sweeney, accusing him of negligence and battery.

Sweeney’s defense more or less consisted of calling Koulmey a liar, insisting that he hadn’t even eaten fra diavolo last night. “The defendant was insistent that he did not order fra diavolo,” Koulmey’s attorney Jeremy D’Amico said. “But, the two people who had the food thrown on them felt it and were adamant it was hot and spicy, and said it was fra diavolo.”

Sweeney also said that her neck and back injuries were pre-existing conditions, and that he only threw the pasta in self-defense. Koulmey’s attorneys showed the jury the restaurant’s security footage, which seemed to disprove that theory: He was clearly seen “[looking] left and right to make sure no one is watching him” before throwing his entree.

“In order to act in self-defense, you must act in reaction to imminent bodily harm, and there was not any,” D’Amico said. “He did not have fear if he was looking both left and right.” (Also, what could he possibly have been trying to fend off? Was Cosmos waving a breadstick at him?)

After three-plus hours of deliberation, the jury sided with Koulmey, ordering Sweeney to pay $85,049 plus interest, for a total of $102,500. That would’ve been enough to eat at Masa almost 230 times—assuming Sweeney didn’t throw his food there, too.