Eleven-year-old Landon Wood had no idea that a cookie purchased at a Publix Super Market would trigger his severe nut allergy, causing him to go into anaphylactic shock and die.
The Wood family were on a trip to visit Landon’s aunt in Clarksville, Tenn. His mother, Beth Cline, always made sure to carry an EpiPen with her as an emergency response to her son’s allergy. During their trip, they went shopping at a local Publix Super Market, complete with a bakery counter loaded with all kinds of enticing goodies, including muffins, pastries, cookies and brownies.
None of the products had warning labels on them relating to allergens possibly being present in the baking, nor were there any signs suggesting there may be issues with the cross-contamination of products produced in the presence of nuts. Landon asked for a cookie and his mother checked with the employee behind the bakery counter about the contents and exposure to contaminants of the baked treats. The store employee stated their “Chocolate Chew” cookie did not contain tree nut allergens. The label on the cookie also carried no such information.
When the family had returned home to their aunt’s house, Beth Cline took a bite of the cookie to test it first. She did not detect the presence of any nuts and gave it to her son to eat. Three bites later he insisted there was something in it because his mouth had started to burn. As it turned out, the Chocolate Chew did contain walnuts.
Even though Landon’s mother promptly administered his EpiPen, his condition worsened and he lost consciousness. Medical staff was unable to revive him at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Landon passed away on June 3, 2014. Publix offered the family their deepest condolences for the loss of Landon. The family decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit, not to garner financial reward, but to attempt to raise awareness of how deadly food allergies can be in children and others with similar issues.
The statement of claim for the lawsuit does suggest Publix needs to be following federal food labelling laws relating to food allergens.
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