In a recent settlement agreement between Lesley University and the Department of Justice, the University is making dining safer for students with food allergies. As part of the agreement, the University is implementing safety steps and training programs to educate the staff and students.
The settlement was a result of a Lesley University student’s 2009 complaint to the Department of Justice that he felt discriminated against because the school did not have safe food alternatives on the required meal plan. The meal plan did not provide gluten-free and food allergy-friendly options on campus. The complaint resulted in a 3 year investigation. See Students With Food Allergies In Schools & Universities - Recent University Settlement Agreement Has Big Impact On Schools In The U.S
Pursuant to the Americans Disabilities Act, serious food allergies may be considered a disability, and schools have to make reasonable accommodations for these students.
The settlement agreement is being publicized by the Justice Department. It is likely that most colleges and universities in the United States are familiar with the agreement and the terms that Lesley University voluntarily agreed to. This agreement, along with the possible serious results of mistaken allergen ingestion by a student in a school cafeteria or dining hall, support the argument that schools should begin changing their policies if they haven't already. Schools that do not address this issue sufficiently, particularly in light of the roadmap that the Lesley University settlement agreement provides, are likely opening themselves up to legal claims from students who suffer allergy events as a result of their schools' failure to implement food allergy safety policies to protect their students.
Even restaurants should take heed. Restaurants may also be opening themselves up to liability if they ignore customers' requests to keep certain ingredients out of the meals they order, and a customer suffers a serious food allergic reaction.
There are many reports around the country of how restaurant patrons suffered a serious allergic food reaction because they were allergic to something in their entrée that was not supposed to be there. Perhaps, the cooking oil contained peanuts, or there was cross contamination because the pot the meal was cooked in was used for another dish that contained peanuts.
Many times I see and hear parents roll their eyes and complain that they can’t pack a peanut butter jelly sandwich for their child to eat at school because another child has peanut allergies. These parents have to realize that it is a life threatening situation for the child with a severe food allergy.
If you've had a serious allergic reaction that you believe was the fault of a restaurant or food service company, and you'd like to discuss your options with an attorney, feel free to call the food allergy lawyers at White and Williams to explore your legal rights. Our lawyers offer a free initial consultation. 877.944.8396
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