Disney World sued after doctor dies from allergic reaction to restaurant meal

FILE - Walt Disney World has been sued by the husband of a New York doctor who said his wife died of an allergic reaction after eating at a restaurant in the Disney Springs complex in Florida on Oct. 5, 2023. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The husband of a New York City doctor has filed a lawsuit against Walt Disney World, alleging that his wife died after she ate a meal that restaurant staff assured her was allergen-free.

Jeffrey Piccolo filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Florida on Thursday. Piccolo said he and his late wife, Dr. Kanokporn Tangsuan, were dining with his mother at Raglan Road Irish Pub in the park’s Disney Springs complex on Oct. 5 when Tangsuan was exposed to food allergens.

According to Business Insider, which shared the lawsuit, Tangsuan alerted restaurant staff about her dairy and nut allergies.

Piccolo said his wife asked restaurant staff which menu items could be made to accommodate her food allergy. After confirming with a chef in the kitchen, a waiter “unequivocally assured” Tangsuan “that the food would be allergen free.”

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Tangsuan ordered a vegetable fritter, scallops, a vegan shepherd’s pie and onion rings.

The lawsuit claims Tangsuan’s food arrived without “allergen free flags.” When she inquired again about whether the food was safe to eat, restaurant staff “guaranteed” Tangsuan her food did not contain nuts or dairy.

She ate the meal, then had a severe allergic reaction about 45 minutes later after splitting up from Piccolo and his mother. Alone in a nearby store, Tangsuan experienced breathing difficulties and self-administered her EpiPen (a lifesaving medication used to decrease an allergic reaction).

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She collapsed and was taken to hospital where she later died.

Piccolo said he called his wife’s phone when she did not return to their hotel room. The call was allegedly answered by a witness who told Piccolo his wife had collapsed. When he reached the hospital, medical staff told him Tangsuan had died.

The lawsuit claims Tangsuan’s cause of death was an accident triggered by “anaphylaxis due to elevated levels of dairy and nut in her system.”

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Piccolo and his lawyers said Raglan Road Irish Pub is advertised as a Disney World restaurant that can accommodate special allergies and related requests.

He is seeking US$50,000 (nearly C$67,600) in damages, as well as compensation for mental pain and suffering, loss of income and medical and funeral expenses.

Disney has not provided comment about the lawsuit.

Piccolo has accused Walt Disney World and the restaurant of negligence. He maintained that staff at Raglan Road Irish Pub were improperly trained on how to handle severe food allergies.

Tangsuan was a physician at NYU Langone Hospital. Her obituary says she was 42 years old.

A spokesperson for the hospital told NBC News, “We are saddened by Dr. Tangsuan’s passing and our deepest condolences are with her family.”

There is no cure for food allergies. According to Food Allergy Canada, more than 3 million Canadians have self-reported having at least one food allergy.

One in two Canadian households are affected by a food allergy, the organization claims.

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