Disney Sued Over Doctor’s Allergy Death After Meal at Resort Restaurant

27/02/2024

The husband of a Long Island doctor who died of a severe allergic reaction after eating at a Disney World restaurant is suing the Walt Disney Company and the restaurant, saying his wife had been served allergens despite assurances that she would not be.

The doctor, Kanokporn Tangsuan, died in October after dining with her husband, Jeffrey Piccolo, at the restaurant, the Raglan Road Irish Pub, in a section of the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., according to Mr. Piccolo’s lawsuit, which was filed on Feb. 22.

Dr. Tangsuan, 42, of Carle Place, N.Y., was a family medicine specialist affiliated with N.Y.U. Langone Hospital Long Island. She and Mr. Piccolo were visiting Disney World with Mr. Piccolo’s mother when Dr. Tangsuan died, according to the lawsuit.

Brian R. Denney, a lawyer for Mr. Piccolo, said in a statement that Dr. Tangsuan’s death had been “totally preventable.” The couple, Mr. Denney said, “trusted Disney’s Raglan Road to follow proper protocols and make good on their repeated promises to serve food that was allergen free.”

Inquiries sent to Disney and the restaurant seeking comment were not immediately returned.

As described in the suit, the events leading to Dr. Tangsuan’s death unfolded as follows:

She, Mr. Piccolo and Mr. Piccolo’s mother went to the Raglan Road pub for dinner on Oct. 5. Dr. Tangsuan was severely allergic to dairy and nuts, and she and her husband chose the restaurant because, based on advertising in which Disney indicated that accommodation of people with food allergies was a priority at its resorts, they believed it would have the necessary safeguards to protect people with such allergies.

When a waiter came to their table, the couple told him about Dr. Tangsuan’s food allergies, said she required allergen-free food and asked whether various menu items contained allergens.

The waiter left to consult with the chef about whether certain foods could be made allergen-free, returned to the table, said that they could be and guaranteed that allergen-free food was what Dr. Tangsuan would be served.

The couple questioned the waiter several more times to confirm that the food Dr. Tangsuan was ordering was allergen-free, and they were assured “unequivocally” that it would be.

Based on that guarantee, Dr. Tangsuan ordered onion rings and items labeled “Sure I’m Frittered,” “Scallop Forest” and “This Shepherd Went Vegan.”

When the waiter returned with Dr. Tangsuan’s order, some of the items did not have flags in them marking them as allergen-free. Dr. Tangsuan and Mr. Piccolo asked again about the presence of allergens, and the waiter again said Dr. Tangsuan’s food was allergen-free.

Dr. Tangsuan, Mr. Piccolo and Mr. Piccolo’s mother ate their meal. When they finished, the two women went shopping nearby, and Mr. Piccolo returned to their hotel with leftovers from their meal.

About 45 minutes later, Dr. Tangsuan had a severe allergic reaction after entering the Planet Hollywood outlet. She began to have severe difficulty breathing, collapsed to the floor and used an EpiPen. Someone soon called 911, and Dr. Tangsuan was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy by the District 9 medical examiner’s office in Orlando, Fla., determined that the cause of death was anaphylaxis, or a severe allergic reaction. The autopsy report notes Dr. Tangsuan’s reported history of allergies to dairy products and peanuts and said that she had used an EpiPen before becoming unresponsive. The manner of death was accidental, the report says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2021 that 6.2 percent of U.S. adults 18 and older had food allergies, although deaths caused by such allergies are rare. For instance, there were 24 food-allergy deaths in New York City from 2000 to 2014, including four from peanuts, according to a study published in The Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

Claire Fahy contributed reporting.

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