Thursday, November 5, 2009

Negligence in eating a sandwich?

So how do YOU eat a sandwich? What is the appropriate way to eat a sandwich?

All kidding aside, this second question may be very important in a tort action in Chicago. The facts of the case are simple: the plaintiff, who suffers from severe allergies, ordered a turkey sandwich without any of the ingredients he is allergic to. By mistake he was given a tuna sandwich with a lot of ingredients he is allergic to. The sandwich was completely wrapped in paper which made it impossible to know a turkey sandwich from a tuna one just from looking at it. The plaintiff peeled some of the paper and took a bite out of the sandwich which was enough to cause him to suffer severe consequences because of his allergies.

In response, the defendant argued the plaintiff was negligent by not unwrapping the sandwich and inspecting it before he took a bite.

Quite frankly, I think the defendants have a good point - but not the one they apparently have argued.

The defendant apparently argued that "a reasonable person removes the sandwich from its wrapping, inspects it, and only then bites into it." That's nonsense and it misses the point.

The question is not what the proper way to eat a sandwich is. The question is what should a person with severe food allergies do to protect himself.  Someone who suffers from severe allergies needs to learn to be very careful when eating out. The plaintiff in this case, in my humble opinion, was negligent not because there is an objective "correct" way to eat a sandwich, but because the plaintiff should have known that he needs to be careful when eating out.

Believe me, I know. My daughter has a severe food allergy. We have to be very vigilant about it and, at age 3, she is now old enough to understand it. She knows she has to be careful and has learned already to ask "does that have _____" (what she is allergic to) before she tries anything she is not familiar with and whenever we eat out. Quite frankly, if a three year old can learn to ask, I have to say an adult has to learn to be careful. Go here for more on this story.