Disney and Pub Sued After Doctor Dies of Severe Allergic Reaction

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News, Milk & Egg
Published: February 27, 2024

The husband of a New York doctor who suffered a fatal reaction after eating at an Irish pub at Walt Disney World accuses both the restaurant and Disney of failing in their “duty of care” to serve his wife allergen-free food.

Jeffrey Piccolo is suing Raglan Road Irish Pub, located in Disney Springs, and Disney World Theme Parks and Resorts over his wife’s death.

In his wrongful death lawsuit, Piccolo alleges that he and his wife Kanokporn Tangsuan asked their server at Raglan Road multiple times to ensure that her meal was free of nuts and dairy. They told him the 42-year-old’s food allergies were severe.

Jeff Piccolo and Kanokporn (Amy) Tangsuan

The lawsuit says the server assured the couple from Long Island, New York, that her food would be free of these allergens.

Dr. Tangsuan, who went by Amy, died October 5, 2023, after eating at the pub with her husband and her mother-in-law Jackie Piccolo. “She died after consuming food containing allergens at Raglan Road,” says the suit.

“Jeff is bringing this case, in part, to prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family,” attorney Brian Denney tells Allergic Living. Denney is with the Florida-based firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, which is handling the case.

The lawsuit, seeking damages in excess of $50,000, was filed in Orange County, Florida on February 22, 2024. It accuses Raglan Road and its owner The Great Irish Pubs, Inc., as well as Disney Parks and Resorts, of negligence.

Raglan Road and Disney Parks and Resorts did not respond to Allergic Living’s requests for comments.

Disney Pub Visit, Then Reaction

The lawsuit describes the steps Tangsuan and her husband took to ensure that her meal at the Disney Springs Irish pub would be allergy-friendly.

The couple informed the waiter about Tangsuan’s allergies to dairy and nuts when they were seated at Raglan Road. They then asked questions about menu items to determine which foods would be safe. The lawsuit says the server consulted the chef to confirm these choices could be made allergen-free.

Following the discussions with the waiter, Tangsuan ordered vegan corn fritters and broccoli, scallops, vegan shepherd’s pie, and onion rings. When the food arrived, the couple further questioned why some items were missing allergen-free flags. According to the lawsuit, the waiter reassured them that the food was, in fact, allergen-free.

After the meal, Tangsuan and her mother-in-law Jackie Piccolo went shopping, separating to go into different stores. But about 45 minutes after eating, Tangsuan started experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. Jackie called when it was time to meet up again, but her daughter-in-law didn’t answer.

Tangsuan had started having difficulty breathing upon entering Planet Hollywood, the lawsuit states. It says she self-administered her epinephrine auto-injector, but soon collapsed.

A bystander at Planet Hollywood called 911 for emergency help. When her mother-in-law again tried calling Tangsuan’s phone, someone answered to say she was at the hospital. Jeff Piccolo and his mother raced to the hospital, where they were informed that Tangsuan had died.

“Jeff is devastated over the premature death of his wife. This never should have happened had proper protocols been followed,” attorney Denney says.

The medical examiner confirmed that her cause of death was the result of “anaphylaxis due to elevated levels of dairy and nuts in her system,” the lawsuit states.

Disney: Reputation for Awareness

Disney doesn’t own Raglan Road, but it owns the Disney Springs dining and shopping complex, including the building where the restaurant is located. Piccolo’s suit alleges Disney had “control and/or right of control” over the pub. He further alleges that Disney has a responsibility for the menu, training, hiring and food allergy practices of the restaurant.

When it comes to food allergies, Disney does tout its ability to accommodate. Countless tourists rely on the theme parks’ transparency about ingredients, and willingness to work with food-allergic guests. Disney’s own chefs are often lauded for going above and beyond with allergy-friendly meals.

After reading of Tangsuan’s death, Disney vacation planner Lizzie Reynolds wrote on her Facebook page: “Our biggest fear as food allergy moms, dads, children, and adults has happened.”

Reynolds helps families with food allergies plan trips through her business Pixie Lizzie. She tells Allergic Living that part of her job is to help tourists navigate the restaurants on Disney properties.

“Some of these restaurants have fantastic food allergy-trained chefs. Some do not,” Reynolds says. She notes that restaurants owned by Disney are more likely to have chefs expertly trained to accommodate food allergies.

Lawsuit: Husband’s Hope to Educate

But for someone looking at Disney’s listing of restaurants on its properties, it is not always clear who owns each eatery or what type of allergy protocols or training are in place.

For example, the Raglan Road pub is listed under dining options on Disney’s website, which gives information and menus. The note on Raglan Road’s menu about allergies, directing guests to speak to a trained cast member about their allergy-friendly request, is the same as other restaurants listed on the Disney site.

There also is a section on Disney’s website that outlines its accommodations for special diets, including food allergies. It includes the advice to discuss allergy-friendly requests before placing an order.

The lawsuit says Tangsuan, an NYU Langone hospital physician, and her husband chose the Irish restaurant at Disney Springs “because they believed Disney would have proper safeguards to protect patrons” with allergies.

“Disney advertises and represents to the public that food allergies and/or the accommodation of persons with food allergies is a top priority at its parks and resorts,” the suit notes.

Tangsuan’s husband wants his legal action to “raise awareness in the hopes that other establishments will take customer allergies seriously,” Denney says.

Related Reading:
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