Lawsuit: Boy, 11, died of allergic reaction to Publix cookie

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NASHVILLE, TN -- The family of an 11-year-old boy is suing the Publix grocery chain, saying the child was allergic to nuts and died from a severe reaction after eating a cookie despite a worker's assurance it was safe.

The lawsuit says Derek Landon Wood of Alabama died in June 2014 shortly after eating a chocolate chip cookie purchased at a Publix store in Clarksville. The boy, who was visiting family in Tennessee, was allergic to tree nuts. The lawsuit, which was filed March 20 in federal court in Nashville, says the store bakery did not post warnings about ingredients or possible cross-contamination. It says the mother bought the cookie only after a worker assured her it was safe.

"Our thoughts are with the family over the loss of their child," Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said in an email to The Associated Press. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the pending litigation." However, Brous said that the company does post allergen information in its bakeries.

Gary Cline and Sabrina "Beth" Cline, the boy's grandfather and mother, who both live in Sterrett, Alabama, filed the suit along with the boy's aunt, Stephanie Blankenship, who lives in Clarksville.

The boy, who went by the name Landon, almost immediately started experiencing symptoms when bit into the cookie at his aunt's house, according to the lawsuit. The mother first gave the boy Benadryl and then injected him in the thigh to ease his reaction before an ambulance arrived, but the boy's condition quickly went out of control, an attorney for the family said.

"It was horrible," said Eddie Schmidt III, a lawyer who represents the family. "The child went into anaphylactic shock at his aunt's house in front of his aunt and his mother and his cousins." He said the family did everything they could do to save the boy, who later died at a hospital.

Family members say in the lawsuit that they hope it brings attention to food allergies and children.