Jury Finds Chicago Chinese Restaurant Not Liable for Allergic Reaction to Egg Roll – White v. Leung

While many people suffer from food allergies, the severity of those allergies varies. For example, some people might break out in a rash that is then easily treated with Benadryl, while others may suffer from more serious, life-threatening reactions. Yet whether your food allergy is mild or severe, it is important to make your waiter aware of your allergy when dining out. However, mistakes have been known to happen and an ingredient which you are allergic to might inadvertently end up in your order.

This sort of mix-up was the subject of the Chicago personal injury case of Eva Holmes White v. Chai H. Leung, d/b/a Choice China Wok, Leung Choice China Wok 10L-2254. In 2004, Eva White ordered the lunch special at Choice China Wok, a Chinese restaurant located at 10341 S. Halsted St. Because Ms. White is allergic to shrimp, she asked that the shrimp egg foo young, the shrimp fried rice, and the shrimp egg roll that were included in the special be substituted with chicken.

After receiving her order, White returned to her car to eat her food. Before eating her egg roll, White reported that she broke it in half and checked that there was not any shrimp in her egg roll. After determining that there was not, she proceeded to take a bite. However, immediately after that she noticed that there was in fact shrimp in her egg roll.

White reentered the restaurant and requested a new egg roll. She remained in the restaurant for about thirty minutes before her request was filled. During that time, her throat began to itch and swell. Rather than proceeding immediately to a hospital, White called her mother-in-law, who happened to be a registered nurse, who recommended that White simply purchase some Benadryl.

However, the Benadryl did not help, so White drove herself to Roseland Community Hospital’s Emergency Room. Upon arrival, White was given epinephrine, which is often used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. However, the hospital later was unclear on whether White was given a dose of 1:1,000 or 1:10,000 of epinephrine. While 1:1,000 would have been appropriate, a dosage of 1:10,000 would have been too high and might have been the cause of White’s subsequent cardiac arrest. White’s cardiac arrest triggered a coma, which she remained in for three weeks.

Rather than filing a medical malpractice claim against Roseland for its possible emergency room error, White filed a complaint against Choice China Wok. The complaint alleged that the shrimp egg roll was responsible for not only her allergic reaction, but also caused her cardiac arrest.

A major part of the plaintiff’s theory of liability rested on the assumption that the shrimp egg roll she ate came from the defendant’s restaurant and not from one of the five other Chinese restaurants nearby. In most food poisoning cases, this is done by producing the food item for analysis. However, Ms. White did not save the egg roll in question, which in turn made it difficult for her to prove not only that it contained shrimp, but also that it came from the defendant’s Chinese restaurant.

At the Cook County personal injury trial, the defense pointed out that the plaintiff could not prove that the shrimp egg roll came from its restaurant. In addition, the defense argued that the plaintiff herself was negligent because she ordered her meal from an employee who spoke very little English given her severe shrimp allergy. In addition, the defense pointed to the fact that there was at least a 50% chance that the alleged inappropriate dosage of epinephrine caused her cardiac arrest, not the shrimp egg roll.

After reviewing all the evidence, the jury found in favor of the defendant. In explaining how it arrived at this decision, the jury stated that Ms. White had failed to prove that Choice China Wok ever sold her the shrimp egg roll. Because the defendant was not guilty, the jury was free from having to decide whether Ms. White was comparatively negligent for her injuries, and if so, to what degree.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois personal injury cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Harwood Heights, Evanston, Northbrook, Chicago’s Bridgeport, and Highwood.

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