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Maine School Safety Watch: Pace v State of Maryland Says It Is Your Responsibility to Watch What Your Kids Eat at School

When you become a parent your obligations never stop. Your primary responsibility is to protect your children from any possible injury, mentally or physically. If they every are injured,syou need a Maine injury attorney who is experienced and knows the law.
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In the case Pace v. the State of Maryland, a Maryland court addresses the crucial question of whether the State has a duty imposed on it by the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) to ensure that children with food allergies are not being served foods containing allergens.

Food allergies are very common and in some cases, they can even be life threatening. If your child has food allergies, it is important to be vigilant and prepare your kids lunch yourself in order to ensure that your child is not exposed to the foods they are allergic to.

In this case, the court found there is no duty on your children’s school cafeteria to maintain a record of your child’s allergies.

This case arose because a child who was allergic to peanut butter was served a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while at school, and suffered an attack that was life threatening. It is never stressed enough how important it is to be vigilant of the foods your children eat and the precautions you can take in order to avoid an child injury in Maine. When your child has a food allergy, it is important to be well informed as to the schools practices and how they affect your child.

In this case the child was sent to school without a lunch and without sufficient funds to purchase lunch. As was the policy in this school, when a child does not come to school with lunch the school provides a free lunch consisting of a bologna sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This school policy is a result of the NSLA, which provides funds to schools in order for them to provide these “credit lunches” to children. National School Lunch Act, 42 U. .C ยงยง 1751-1769.
The child in this case was allergic to peanut butter, and upon eating her sandwich became very ill. She was rushed to the hospital and although she did not sustain serious physical injuries, she was left traumatized and suffering from post traumatic stress. Additionally, the child began to suck her thumb and exhibited symptoms of withdrawal, accompanied by a fear of attending school. As a result of these symptoms, the Paces had to relocate out of the state.

Soon after, Pace sued several people in addition to the state and county entities ( “Defendants”) she felt were responsible for the injuries her daughter sustained. She sued on the principal of negligence, claiming that the Defendants breached their statutory duty of care.

To plead a cause of action for negligence, a plaintiff must argue with definiteness and certainty four things. First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendants had a duty of care, then that the duty of care was breached. Third, the plaintiff must prove that the injuries sustained by plaintiff were the direct and proximate cause of the defendant’s breach of duty. Lastly, there must be damages resulting from the incident.

In this case, the court held that the Plaintiff did not establish that the state in this case owed her and her daughter a duty of care in serving the free school lunch. When discussing this duty, the courts observed the legislative intent and procedural history of the legislation that was being considered. Basically the question becomes, whether the drafters of the NSLA intended there to be a duty imposed on the cafeteria workers and the school when the law was created.

Consequently, the court says that this case is contingent on the public duty doctrine. This doctrine states that where a duty to the public is imposed on a public entity by a statute or by common law, the duty is not enforceable in an action for breach of duty.

The court holding was that the NSLA applied to participating schools but only to the extent that the lunch program was government subsidized. There was no specific statutory duty of care imposed on the Defendants to exercise a heightened degree of care to students with food allergies. It was not important that the parent warned the school of the food allergies, because there was no duty of care to begin with. This case was dismissed and the Pace’s did not receive any recovery.

This case teaches us that we need to really educate ourselves about things that are important to us, especially our children.

If you have been injured contact Maine injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates to schedule a free appointment. Call 1-800-490-5218.