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Stew Leonard’s Sued Over Peanut Allergy Death

Órla Baxendale died in January after eating one of retailer’s cookies
Orla Baxendale Main Image
Órla Ruth Baxendale, who had a severe peanut allergy, died this past January after eating a Vanilla Florentine Cookie from Stew Leonard's that contained undeclared peanuts.

A wrongful-death lawsuit against grocery chain Stew Leonard’s was filed in the Superior Court in Waterbury, Conn., last week by the personal-injury law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf on behalf of a young British dancer who died after ingesting a cookie sold by the grocer. Also named in the suit were Stew Leonard Jr. personally, various supermarket employees and Islip, N.Y-based manufacturer Cookies United LLC.

25-year-old Órla Ruth Baxendale, who had a severe peanut allergy, died this past January after eating a Vanilla Florentine Cookie that contained undeclared peanuts, sparking a recall of the product by Stew Leonard’s. According to the lawsuit, although employees at Stew Leonard’s had been informed that the cookie recipe had changed to include peanuts, the company continued to sell the cookies without changing the label and warning customers that the product now contained peanuts. The complaint alleges that Stew Leonard’s showed gross negligence and reckless indifference by failing to properly label the cookie packaging, which resulted in Baxendale’s death. 

“All consumers, and especially those in the food allergy community, rely on the integrity of supermarkets to properly disclose ingredients so as to not poison or kill those who purchase their food products,” the law firm asserted in a press release.

At the time of her death, Baxendale was a dancer and a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey School, in New York. She is survived by her family, including her parents, Angela Josephine Baxendale and Simon Baxendale, and her siblings.

When contacted by Progressive Grocer, a Stew Leonard’s representative responded that “on the advice of our legal counsel, we can’t comment on pending litigation.”

Norwalk, Conn.-based Stew Leonard’s operates eight stores in Norwalk, Danbury and Newington, Conn.; in East Meadow, Farmingdale and Yonkers, N.Y.; and in Paramus and Clifton, N.J.

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