Publix Possibly Liable In Nut Allergy Death

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Derek "Landon" Wood, 11, of Sterrett, Alabama, died of anaphylactic shock on June 3, 2014, after he reportedly ate a cookie from a Clarksville, Tennessee, branch of the supermarket chain Publix.

Wood had a severe nut allergy and an associate allegedly told his mother, Beth Cline, the Chocolate Chew cookie did not contain any tree nuts.

The cookie did apparently contain walnuts and Landon had an allergic reaction. He was given Benadryl before his mother administered an epinephrine pen, but he died at  Vanderbilt University Medical Center, USA Today reported. 

Cline and Landon’s aunt, Stephanie Blankenship, along with Gary Cline, Landon’s grandfather and legal guardian, sued Publix for negligence and product liability.

Landon and his mother were visiting Blankenship at the time of the reaction. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled that food sold in bakery display cases is not exempt from the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act and denied Publix's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

 "There is no suggestion that the plaintiffs could have reasonably expected to find an allergen in the cookie," Trauger wrote, reports Courthouse News. "Therefore, at this stage, taking the allegations of the complaint as true, the court concludes that the plaintiffs have appropriately alleged that the cookie was 'unreasonably dangerous' at the time that it left the seller's possession.”

Though the case has not been concluded, a Publix spokeswoman said the company’s thoughts are with the family.

"This has been a nightmare, and their lives have been changed," Eddie Schmidt, the family's Nashville-based attorney, told USA Today. "The mother and the aunt are grief-stricken and have been shaken to the core.

"The purpose of the lawsuit is the raise the awareness of food allergens that are potentially fatal in children, to have Publix follow the federal law in labeling food allergens and obtain some measure of compensation for the family.”

Sources: USA Today, Courthouse News

Image via Josh Hallett/Flickr