DOANE HULICK Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer. Providence Journal.
Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin May 11, 1995
PROVIDENCE — The jury in a wrongful-death lawsuit has awarded $434,020 to the family of a Johnson & Wales University culinary arts student who died from an allergic reaction to shrimp he ate in a school dining hall two years ago.
James M. Brown Jr., 27, of Williston, S.C., who was allergic to seafood, ordered a vegetarian egg roll when he went to supper on Oct. 19, 1993.
He was served a shrimp egg roll by mistake, a short time later suffered an acute allergic reaction, and died while being taken to the hospital.
The jury, in U.S. District Court, found Johnson & Wales liable for Brown’s death and ordered the school to pay the money to his estate. The jury apparently thought that Brown was partly to blame, because the award was less than half the amount an economist testified that Brown would have earned in a career as a chef.
Christopher DelSesto, Johnson & Wales’ legal counsel, said yesterday that the school has not decided whether to appeal.
Brown, who was enrolled in the culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales’ Charleston, S.C., campus, was in Rhode Island to complete his practical assignment at the school’s facilities here. He was living in the Airport Center East Residence hall, on Post Road in Warwick.
Providence lawyer David Morowitz, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of his estate, said Brown told the person who served him the shrimp egg roll that he was allergic to shrimp, and that the server had made a mistake.
Morowitz said Brown then went to class and told his teacher what had happened at the dining hall, and that he might suffer an allergic reaction.
A short time later, Brown had trouble breathing and left to go to his dorm.
"He died en route to Kent County Memorial Hospital," Morowitz said.
The suit alleged that Johnson & Wales was negligent because it failed to take steps to prevent Brown’s death. Morowitz argued that Johnson & Wales personnel knew Brown was allergic to shrimp but did nothing to see that he got medical attention.
Johnson & Wales denied the allegations and contended that Brown himself was responsible because he failed to take immediate steps to seek medical treatment after he realized that the egg roll contained shrimp.
Peter Leach, who represented Johnson & Wales at trial, said "a mistake was made, and the kid was served a shrimp egg roll." Leach maintained, however, that if Brown had acted on Johnson & Wales’ advice, "he would have lived."
Leach said the person who served Brown asked him if he needed medical attention. His teacher also offered to call an ambulance, Leach said.
Brown’s roommate also asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital, Leach said. Brown finally asked for a ride to the hospital, but by then it was too late, Leach said.
Brown’s medical records showed that he had a previous allergic reaction to shellfish and was aware of the allergy, Leach said.
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