Warning! Restaurants in the U.S. and court case

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 4:25am
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

I found this today:


I believe that it means the restaurants in the U.S. have no legal responsibility to warn customers about possible allergens in the food.

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 5:04am
PeanutKate's picture
Joined: 05/24/2000 - 09:00

I believe your interpretation is likely too broad to be correct. I am not a lawyer. I have worked professionally with legal information sources on behalf of lawyers, government officials and others.
The person who lodged the suit chose to do so under Washington's Product Liability Act and Washinton's Consumer Protection Act. Those state acts apply in that state and the judgement was regarding her specific argument the the restaurant meal was a manufactured product with a construction or design defect. That sounds like an interesting approach but a long shot! Cases involving other laws and other arguments or in different states might have a different result. This is a very limited case.
I also think that since we are urged as allergy sufferers to avoid Chinese, Thai and related ethnic foods that part of the problem here was an unrealistic expectation of safety. Now don't jump on me for "attacking the victim" as I really am not as I regret that she seemed to lack needed information and took a risk that had an unfortunate consequence for her.

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 5:11am
PeanutKate's picture
Joined: 05/24/2000 - 09:00

Probably should add this info:
My brother received a cash settlement from a restaurant that promised to mix his salad in a clean bowl using utensils that were fresh from their dishwasher. The server asked the cook to come out from the kitchen to talk to him about his peanut/nut allergy and after a conversation that was quite detailed, the cook agreed that he could produce a salad that was nut free. Instead, he mixed the salad in a bowl that had been used to mix a salad with walnuts in it and my brother had an anaphylactic reaction The restaurant had to call 911. The owner apologized and offered a cash settlement The cook is not working there anymore. In this case there was a promise to act in a way that reduced risk and that promise was broken with a horrific consequence for my brother.

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 6:29am
Peg541's picture
Joined: 12/29/2002 - 09:00

This seems perfectly clear.
The woman ordered Almond chicken. She is allergic to peanuts. Not a good idea.

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 6:31am
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

PeanutKate, I hope that you are right about this. I would hate to think that American restaurants had no responsibility at all when answering a customer's questions about allergens in the food.
I don't think you that you are blaming the victim at all because you're right when you say that she was putting herself in a high risk situation.
If she didn't know any better and hadn't been properly informed, then she may just have a lawsuit with her allergist.

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 7:19am
California Mom's picture
Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

Based on the article (which by the way, River, I thank you so much for providing!) I don't think the restaurant should be held liable. There was no claim that this dish was "peanut free", nor did the customer (apparently) even mention her allergies when ordering.
PeanutKate's brother's story is chilling. It makes me wonder if the chef was "testing" to see whether the bowl would truly make a difference. Very, very scary.
[img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img] Miriam

Posted on: Fri, 07/18/2003 - 10:16am
LaurensMom's picture
Joined: 05/23/2001 - 09:00

My DH is a chef and we know a lot in the industry. I know in his kitchen if someone comes in with a food allergy and they are told about the food allergy, they go thru great lengths to make sure things are safe. They've gone so far as to scrub the grill clean before cooking for an allergic individual. Could this be because he is working there? Maybe, but we've gotten good responses from the restaurants we visit. One chef said to call ahead of time (just a hour or so) and he would make sure he had safe meals for the kids.
I think that the allergic woman handled her situation poorly. It is HER responsibility to notify someone that she is allergic. Restaurants are not required to give out recipies. How did she know it hadn't changed? How did she know it wasn't know flavored with peanut oil? You know, IMHO, I feel that the fact that the case even came to court is a shame. It makes it look like we all are that irresponsible. (Don't take me as cold-hearted. I do feel for the woman and hope she made a quick and complete recovery from the reaction.)

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