According to the Department of Justice, the recent settlement with Lesley University in regard to its alleged failure to provide safe food alternatives to students with food allergies that were required to eat at its facilities, provides a positive roadmap for other colleges and universities to follow. National organizations have taken notice of the agreement. Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states, "To our community, this is definitely a precedent."
Due to 2009 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act, episodic impairments that substantially limit a "major life activity" like eating, can now be considered a disability under the ADA. Celiac disease and nut allergies, for example, can cause severe, even fatal, reactions like anaphylaxis in certain people who suffer from them. This past summer, a 13 year old girl from California died when she bit into a snack at a camp, even though she immediately spit the snack out and was given 3 epi-pens after showing symptoms. The results of not protecting students can be deadly. *Source: www.cbsnews.com (13-year-old dies at Sacramento camp from peanut allergy despite receiving medicine)
Under the agreement with the Department of Justice, the University agreed to take significant steps to provide safe options in its dining halls. Below are some of the options and steps the University agreed to:
Perhaps most significantly, the food service provider at Lesley will provide meal options made without specific allergens to students with food allergies who have food allergy modification plans with the school. Lesley's dining hall food lines will offer and identify a variety of food options made without certain allergens (e.g., wheat, dairy, nuts), and the food service staff will take reasonable steps to avoid cross-contamination.
All students with food allergies who have registered with the school's Disability Services and engaged in the interactive process with the school will have the choice to pre-order their meals, in order to minimize the chance of cross-contamination.
The voluntary settlement agreement between Lesley and the Justice Department provides a template that other schools can, and should, follow. Schools that do not address food allergy issues seriously may be liable to students who suffer severe food allergic reactions as a result of not implementing policies to protect the safety and health of their students.
If you or your friend or family member became ill or had a severe allergic reaction after eating due to a restaurant or school’s negligence, call the food allergy lawyers at White and Williams to explore your legal rights. Our lawyers offer a free initial consultation. 877.944.8396