I read this tragic story this morning out of Alabama. A young boy was shopping with his mother at a Publix supermarket and asked for a cookie in the bakery section. The boy suffers from a very serious allergy to tree nuts of all kinds. As many as two percent of all children today suffer from this allergy which can range in severity from mere annoyance to fatal. Unfortunately, for this young man, he had a fatal allergy. The family has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the supermarket.
The cookies in the market were not marked as containing nuts of any kind. Aware of the seriousness of her sons allergy, the victims mother specifically asked the girl at the counter if there were any nuts in the cookie. She was told “no.” The boys mother even tried the cookie herself first but did not notice any nuts in the ingredients. Horribly, after just 2-3 bites the boy knew something was wrong because his mouth was on fire. Despite the use of benadryl and an epi-pen, the boy still passed away on route to the hospital.
This story is all the more tragic because it was absolutely unnecessary. With great credit to the boys parents they claim that this lawsuit is not about money but about awareness. Even though the country is pretty aware of the existence of peanut allergies and many schools now forbid nuts of any kind, there remains far too much ignorance on the subject. It is, as it was here, literally a matter of life and death. Supplying an allergic boy with a cookie containing (even trace amounts of) nuts is the equivalent of handing any one else a cookie containing cyanide. Hopefully this lawsuit can have their desired effect of informing the public just how important it is to be aware of the presence of nut allergens.
Based on the facts of this case as I am aware, it seems clear that Publix should be held responsible for the boys death. Not only because there was a failure to warn of the presence of nuts but because their employee was specifically asked about the presence of nuts and wrongfully claimed there were none.