A university student in Massachusetts has sued her college after officials insisted she purchase a mandatory meal plan. The student had a food allergy to gluten, for which the cafeteria made no accommodations, so she could not eat the food available through the dining plan.
The case could serve as a precedent for other people with food allergies, though its effect remains to be unseen. At question is whether institutions and businesses offering food sales could be open to lawsuits if they fail to honor requests for accommodations made by people with food allergies. Schools and restaurants serving food could have more responsibility to cater to those with food sensitivities since severe food allergies have recently been classified as disabilities under federal law.
Will Case Affect Restaurants?
According to Leonard Lundy, Partner at Lundy Law, the case should not affect restaurants. As he explains, it was an isolated case “because the student had no choice, the school had to provide a facility to meet this student’s special needs.”
However, this may not open up privately-owned restaurants to the same liability because people choose to visit the restaurant and can leave at any time. Still, if a restaurant blatantly ignored a customer’s request to avoid certain ingredients and caused that person to suffer an allergic reaction, the restaurant could be liable.