Choked to Death|on a Movie Hot Dog

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) — A grandfather sued a movie theater for wrongful death, claiming he watched his 14-year-old grandson choke to death on a hot dog because employees refused to turn on the lights.
     Ricardo Mendiola sued Reading International Cinemas and its Valley Plaza 16 outlet, in Bakersfield, on Monday in Kern County Court.
     Mendiola he took his grandson, who had Down syndrome, to the movies on Oct. 30, 2012 and bought him a hot dog from the theater’s snack bar.
     After the movie started the boy began choking on the hot dog. Mendiola tried to get it out of his throat, but couldn’t see in the dark, nor could he hear well because of the loud movie.
     After “an unreasonably long period of time,” he says, some employees arrived and he “begged and pleaded with them to immediately turn on the lights and turn down the audio” so he could see what was happening and help his grandson.
     “Despite the obvious emergency, the defendants’ employees callously refused to turn on the lights and/or turn down the audio and instead advised Mr. Mendiola that the defendants’ policies and procedures precluded them from interrupting the movie once it had commenced,” according to the complaint.
     It continues: “As a result, Mr. Mendiola was forced to frantically continue his desperate efforts to save his grandson with virtually no ability to see or hear. Mr. Mendiola was then forced to observe his beloved grandson struggle for his life and essentially suffocate and slowly stop moving as critical seconds passed, while he continued to try to save the decedent in the loud, dark theatre as the defendants’ employees looked on doing nothing.”
     Co-plaintiff Maryann Mendiola, the boy’s mom, who was not at the movie, says she lost her son because of the theatre’s policy not to interrupt a movie even for medical emergencies, which she says can be expected with people eating and drinking in a dark, loud theatre.
     Susan Villeda, paralegal and insurance risk manager for Reading, told Courthouse News the company does not comment on pending litigation.
     The Mendiolas seek punitive damages for wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
     They are represented by Timothy Osborn, who did not immediately return emailed requests for comment Tuesday.

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