A New Jersey country club sued one of its own employees for spilling wine on, and allegedly ruining, a patron's $30,000 handbag.

The Alpine Country Club in Demarest declined to compensate the owner of the pink Hermès Kelly clutch, Maryana Beyder, instead blaming the incident on a waiter at the facility. The luxury item was a birthday gift from her husband, and the French fashion house has since discontinued it, Beyder's attorney, Alexandra Errico, told CBS MoneyWatch.

A Hermès handbag is "like an investment — they only increase in value," Errico said.

After the story began attracting local and national media attention, Alpine seemed to have thought better of the litigation and dropped the suit against its worker on Tuesday, the attorney said.

Alpine did not immediately return requests for comment.

Beyder's lawsuit

After getting nowhere with the club and its insurance company, Beyder late last month filed a lawsuit against the club, claiming that an unidentified waiter had spilled the vino on her pricey bag in late 2018.

Last week, the club filed its counterclaim, fingering its worker as the culprit.

The tactic of the club, a private institution that pays about $1 million a year in real estate taxes, is "very unusual," Errico said, adding that "This has absolutely zero to do with the employee."

The attorney also lambasted Alpine for not taking the concerns of its members into account, saying the destruction of property is no less significant merely because it's an accessory item, as opposed to a vehicle. If a customer's car had been scratched at the club, one would expect the club to pay for the damage, she said.

Club members pay a $65,000 initiation fee and $19,000 in annual dues, according to a job recruiter's profile of the establishment.

Employment attorney Louis Pechman told the New Jersey Record that the country's club action was uncalled for and that the waiter should not be held liable.

"This type of a cross-claim is unheard of," he told the newspaper. "Good human resources policy would dictate that the restaurant has the employee's back, rather than sticking the knife in his back."

First published on November 12, 2019 / 6:08 PM

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