A jury found Thursday that members of the Rowland Unified School District food service staff were not negligent when they served an 11-year-old student food that triggered an allergic reaction.
The Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about a half-day before rejecting the claims brought on behalf of Diego Moreno, who is now 16 years old, by his father.
The boy testified that he believed he was going to die when he suffered the allergic reaction on Feb. 14, 2012, at Shelyn Elementary School. He said he had looked forward to having a special Valentine’s Day cookie that came with a chicken sandwich, but juice from green beans left on his plate seeped into his meal and caused the attack.
“My throat started closing up,” he testified. “It felt tight. I started to panic.”
He said he headed toward the school office, but collapsed twice along the way.
The boy testified that no nurse was there when he arrived. A school worker gave him an antihistamine, but he was unable to swallow it, he said, testifying that his throat continued to feel tight and his tongue itched.
A nurse finally arrived and gave him an epinephrine injection for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis. His father later took him to a hospital.
Diego’s lawyer, Andrew Bryman, said outside the courtroom that he was disappointed with the verdict, but did not know if he will appeal.
Dominic Quiller, representing Rowland Unified, told jurors that the case was about accountability. He said the boy’s parents provided outdated information at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, saying their son was allergic only to shellfish and beans. Green beans, despite their name, are not classified as beans by the federal government, according to Quiller.
Quiller disputed the boy’s claim that he told the food server that Diego told he was allergic to green beans and that they should have been removed from his tray. Quiller also rejected the plaintiff’s claim he 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 parents could have given their son a lunch to take with him to school as they did most days, but he wanted to have the special cookie.
The boy also was allergic to other foods that were not listed to the school district by his parents at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, Quiller said.
—City News Service