An Evesham policeman who found body hair in his bagel sandwich last year has sued the deli where he bought it and the cook who admitted sabotaging it as payback for a previous run-in with the officer.
Jeremy Merck, 30, a six-year veteran of the department, alleged in the suit that Good Foods to Go was negligent for failing to keep its premises safe and for failing to properly examine the sandwich that Ryan J. Burke served him on Feb. 20, 2010.
The Marlton deli also failed to properly hire, train, and supervise its employees, the suit alleges.
Burke confessed to police on the day of the incident that he put hair from his chest and pubic area in Merck's egg, turkey, and cheese sandwich in retaliation for a 2009 traffic arrest by the officer, according to records.
The New Jersey State Police lab found the hairs contained Burke's DNA.
Mount Holly attorney Bruce Zamost, who represents Merck, said customers are protected by a state law that makes restaurants liable for serving contaminated food.
"If someone is served contaminated food, then they are entitled to a civil remedy against the restaurant," Zamost said. "It doesn't matter whether the restaurant was clean or not clean. It doesn't matter whether the restaurant was negligent in performing its duties."
The amended suit, filed last month in Burlington County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages.
The eatery was not responsible for Burke's action, Mark R. Sander, an attorney for Good Foods, said Wednesday.
"Ryan Burke was a 27-year-old man who acted outside the scope of his employment," Sander said.
Burke was fired immediately after he was arrested and Merck and others in the Police Department continued to patronize Good Foods, Sander added.
Evesham police declined to comment on Wednesday.
Zamost said the incident had stigmatized his client, with even strangers mentioning the case.
"It's something he's living with," Zamost said.
Good Foods was on Merchant Way but has moved, Sander said. He did not know its current location.
Merck found the hair after eating a portion of the sandwich and was treated at a local hospital, the suit said.
Burke pleaded guilty last October to aggravated assault on an officer and retaliation for a past official action, records show. He received two years' probation, fines, and 15 days in jail to be served on weekends.