The Rowland Unified School District food service staff negligently served an 11-year-old boy food that triggered an allergic reaction that caused him to collapse, his attorney told a jury Friday.

Image from Shelyn Elementary School homepage. Photo via
“He thought he was going to die,” lawyer Andrew Bryman said during his opening statement in a civil trial stemming from the lawsuit brought on behalf of Diego Moreno. “He had never had a reaction this bad in the past.”

However, Dominic Quiller, representing Rowland Unified, said the boy’s parents gave outdated information at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, saying he was allergic only to shellfish and beans. Green beans, despite their name, are not classified as beans by the federal government, according to Quiller.

“I think this case is about accountability,” Quiller said.

Diego’s father, Victor Moreno, filed the lawsuit on his son’s behalf in February 2013. The boy is now 16.

According to Bryman, the allergic reaction occurred on Feb. 14, 2012, a day when Shelyn Elementary School was serving a special Valentine’s Day cookie that Diego looked forward to being served.

Diego got in line in the cafeteria and entered his pin number, which alerted the staff about what foods he could not eat because of his allergies, Bryman said. Some of the workers in the cafeteria were students, and one of them placed green beans on the boy’s plate along with a chicken sandwich and the special cookie, Bryman said.

Diego protested that he did not want the green beans, but an adult server told him to take them anyway, Bryman said. Although Diego never ate the beans, juice from them seeped into his other food, the lawyer said.

“Things go badly wrong,” Bryman said in describing the next one to two minutes. “He’s sitting in the cafeteria and he can’t breathe.”

The boy’s throat was swollen, he felt weak and he twice collapsed, according to Bryman.

He went to the nurse’s office on his own, but there was no one there medically qualified to immediately help him, Bryman said.

He was eventually given an epinephrine injection for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis by a special needs nurse, then taken to a hospital emergency room by his father, who was called to the school, Bryman said.

Diego survived but suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and is reluctant to eat anywhere without his parents because he fears he might have another allergic attack, Bryman said.

“He gets to the point where he doesn’t want to eat anything at school,” Bryman said.

But according to Quiller, the food server denied that Diego told her that he was allergic to green beans. He also disputed that the boy suffered anaphylactic shock.

Quiller said Diego’s parents knew at the beginning of February 2012 that green beans would be served on Valentine’s Day because the monthly menu is published in advance. He said the boy’s parents could have given him a lunch to take with him to school as they did most days, but that Diego wanted to have the special cookie.

Diego also was allergic to other foods that were not provided to the district by his parents at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, Quiller said.

— City News Service

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