The June 2014 death of Scott Johnson is now making headlines. I’m glad about this in a way.
Let me clarify: I am never glad when someone loses his or her life to a food allergic reaction. What I am glad about, though, is that his story requires us to have honest, candid, real conversation.
Scott’s death is making headlines now because his family has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant that prepared the fatal food (pancakes). Reading the circumstances leading up to his final meal, the details look very familiar to most food allergic individuals. To be sure, there were mistakes made on both sides. Scott forgot his EpiPen®, and the restaurant was unable to follow through on their promise of creating fully milk-free pancakes in their kitchen.
So who’s fault was it?
Is a lawsuit really necessary?
Doesn’t everyone make mistakes from time to time?
These are hard – really hard – questions. Questions that even those within the food allergy community don’t respond with the same answer.
There are too many instances of these accidental exposures happening these days. If someone isn’t held responsible, will they just keep occurring with more regularity?
Yes, we absolutely have the responsibility of asking the questions, bringing the EpiPens® and other meds, and making sure we are doing everything within our power to provide a safe eating environment for our loved one.
But we can only carry that responsibility so far. At some point, we have to trust the server, manager, and chef that we have gotten our point across that this is serious business. This is why so many of us avoid eating out regularly, and why – when we find a restaurant that is able and willing to accommodate our needs – we go there enough that they recognize us.
This was the case for the Johnson family, when they went out for breakfast one morning last June. They were known. They were in a restaurant that they trusted. And that trust was ultimately broken.
Who can say they wouldn’t file suit if they were in the Johnson’s shoes? I’m not sure I can.