Mom Sues Grocery Store for Giving Her Son the Nut-Filled Cookie That Killed Him

We may live in an era of frivolous lawsuits, but that doesn't mean that some aren't completely justified. Like this tragic story out of Shelby County, Alabama, where a family is grieving the loss of 11-year-old Derek "Landon" Wood. His family is suing Publix for giving him the cookie that killed him.


Landon and his mom were visiting his aunt last summer when they stopped in at a Publix grocery store in Clarksville, Tennessee. When he asked if he could have a cookie, his mom carefully checked for an ingredients list, and consulted an employee when she couldn't find one.

The tween had had a serious nut allergy since he was four, so his mom always made certain not to assume anything about in the ingredients in the foods she gave him.

Matt Abbott, the attorney representing the family, said, "He saw a chocolate chew cookie, which is what it is called. The mom specifically asked, does this have any nuts in it, this is very important. She was told affirmatively, no there are no nuts."

When they got home, one of the adults went even further and tested a small bite of the cookie, checking for nuts. They found none, and assuming everything was fine, they gave it to Landon to enjoy.

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The lawsuit states that "Landon left the kitchen and went into another room and returned shortly saying that he had three bites and he was sure there was something in it because his mouth was burning."

"They immediately tore apart the cookie and saw there were indeed nuts in there," said Abbott.

His mom called 911 while immediately administering Benadryl and an epinephrine injection. EMTs administered a second dose of epinephrine when they arrived, and raced him to Gateway Medical Center in Clarksville. After that, he was airlifted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, but he died en route.

Abbott said, "There was a tremendous effort given to try to bring him back and they just couldn't do it, his body just shutdown." He added, "This boy died a very horrible, slow death."

They claim that Publix is to blame, for saying that there were no nuts in the cookie. I'm inclined to agree with them. How in the world did the nuts get into the cookie? Were they supposed to be nut-free? Obviously there was a breakdown somewhere between the baker and the storefront employee who said there were no nuts. They should have taken greater care to make sure safety procedures were followed to avoid cross-contamination of allergens.

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My ex-husband has a severe allergy to milk. I know personally what it's like to read every single ingredient on the list, to ask sales people very clearly about what's in the food, and what it's like to skip something if it's unclear. It becomes second nature -- you don't even think about it. It wasn't until a year after our divorce that I even started buying real butter instead of margarine again, because I just didn't think about it.

My point is that I'm sure this mom did everything right. She asked about the ingredients. She tested the cookie herself. She jammed an EpiPen into her son's thigh. I believe her when she says that she asked about nuts being in the cookie, because I'm sure she's asked that about every single thing her son has eaten since they discovered the allergy.

What was she supposed to do, keep her kid in a bubble? That's just not realistic. She relied on other people to be honest and diligent, and for whatever reason, they just weren't. I have no idea why the nuts were in that cookie, but someone, somewhere, made a mistake, and it cost Landon his life.

The Wood family is hoping that the lawsuit will raise awareness of severe food allergies. Abbott explained, "The purpose of the lawsuit is [to] raise the awareness of food allergens that are potentially fatal in children, to have Publix follow the federal law in labeling food allergens, and obtain some measure of compensation for the family."

Publix released a statement about the suit, saying, "Our thoughts are with the family over the loss of their child. It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the pending litigation. However, I can share that we do post allergen information in our bakeries."

It's a heartbreaking situation, and I hope that every person who deals with food understands that they need to be clear about what goes into it, and it's OK to say they're unsure. No one who deals with severe allergies is going to throw caution to the wind and take a chance -- it's better to skip it and find an alternative that won't potentially kill you.

Would you sue if you were this mom?


Image via ©Helen King/Corbis

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