Whenever parents are planning a family vacation they typically spend time researching destinations that will provide numerous activities that will keep their children entertained. For couples with older children, one of the best ways to spend warm summer days is to go camping.
Not all camping is the same - some people prefer to go out into the wilderness and live all alone, living off of the land for weeks or months at a time. For others, the better option is to visit a campground where they can either pitch a tent, rent a cabin, or park a camper. Many of these campgrounds also provide food and activities for people of all ages.
However, just like any other person or company who offers a service, the campground owners, managers, and employees are responsible for providing a safe environment for anyone who visits the grounds or participates in activities.
Sadly, in one case, a campground failed to do their part and a 13-year-old girl suffered the consequences.
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A few years ago, the parents of twin 13-year-old girls decided to take their daughters to a family camp being hosted by a nearby city. This was the fourth year that the entire family had enjoyed this trip and everyone was looking forward to it.
As they had done three years prior, the parents filled out safety information forms, which included allergy information. In fact, they noted that one of the reasons they chose this particular camp was that both of their daughters suffer from extreme peanut allergies and the camp policy was that if anyone attending had this form of allergy, no food containing peanuts would be served during the duration of their stay.
As they had done previously, the family enjoyed their stay. It wasn’t until the very last night that something when disastrously wrong.
On the last night, the campground hosted a farewell dinner and dance in the main lodge. Unknown to the family, the baker who was in charge of the dessert decided to throw peanut butter candies into the Rice Krispie treats he had prepared. This detail was not told to anyone attending the dance and no warning signs or ingredient signs were placed around the treats.
One of their daughters took a treat and while sitting with her family, took a bite. Her initial reaction was that something “tasted funny” and she immediately spit it out. Her parents didn’t think too much of her comment, but as usual, they had an Epipen with them in case of an emergency.
At first, she showed absolutely no symptoms, but 20 minutes later she began to vomit. Her father administered the Epipen but it had little to no effect. He then administered a second EpiPen, but her condition only worsened.
The camp had a first aid station which also contained an Epipen, but when the father arrived, the metal and glass cabinet was locked. He smashed the glass with his elbow, cutting a tendon in his arm in the process, then rushed back to his daughter's side. The third EpiPen was administered but did nothing to slow down her reaction. She went into anaphylactic shock and died in the lodge in her horrified parent's arms.
Not only did they lose a family member, but the injury that the father sustained reduced his dexterity and he was unable to continue working as a clinical urologist.
The deceased teenager's parents filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the staff that had been hired were negligent because they added peanut butter to the treats and didn’t properly label them to warn campers who may have an allergy. They also argued that if the camp hadn’t been negligent, the father would never have sustained a career ending injury.
The defendants argued the case, saying that the family hadn’t provided information regarding their child’s allergies and that the case containing the Epipen was actually unlocked.
The case did go to trial, however, the first day the two parties were able to reach a settlement agreement. This agreement awarded $15 million to the plaintiffs and also required that the camp seek accreditation from the American Camping Association.
Any business that is serving food on the premises needs to be aware of food allergies, especially the most common which includes peanut allergies. In order to prevent horrific endings like the one in the above case, warning signs should be placed around any dish where the ingredients may have even come into contact with a dish that contained the allergen or the ingredients are not easily identifiable.
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