Major Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Stew Leonard’s and Cookies United for Deadly Peanut Allergy Incident Involving Órla Baxendale

 Major Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Stew Leonard’s and Cookies United for Deadly Peanut Allergy Incident Involving Órla Baxendale

NEW YORK, May 23, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The personal injury law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf just filed today a significant wrongful death complaint on behalf of the estate of Órla Ruth Baxendale. The complaint was filed against Stew Leonard’s Danbury, LLC, Stew Leonard’s Holdings, LLC, Stew Leonard Jr., and supermarket employees David Pollard, Peter Tournas, Bret Cherry, Mario Ortiz, Chris Nemer, Annemarie Clarke aka Annemarie Clarke Gochee, Sergio Rocha, and Cookies United LLC in the Superior Court, J.D. of Waterbury.

As alleged in the complaint, the tragic incident involved the wrongful death of 25-year-old Órla Ruth Baxendale, who was killed after consuming a “deadly cookie” that contained peanuts which were not declared on the product label. Despite eleven Stew Leonard’s employees having been told by the cookie manufacturer six months before they sold the cookies that the recipe changed and they now contained peanuts, the supermarket chain ignored those warnings and packaged and sold the cookies without properly changing the label and without warning their customers that they contained peanuts. Like every consumer, Órla Baxendale, who had a known severe peanut allergy, relied on the product labeling to ensure her safety. The complaint alleges that the defendant Stew Leonard’s exhibited gross negligence and reckless indifference by failing to properly label the package of cookies, causing Ms. 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.

Key points of the complaint include:

  • Broken, Unreliable, and Deadly Labeling and Packaging Practices: The systems in place at Stew Leonard’s used to maintain and update the proper labels were broken, unreliable, inherently dangerous, undependable, untrustworthy, erratic, and deplorable. Multiple recalls followed Órla’s death for a wide range of food products sold by Stew Leonard’s including the Florentine Cookies.
  • Negligence and Reckless Indifference: The supermarket defendants failed to update the cookie’s packaging to reflect the inclusion of peanuts despite being notified of the ingredient change in July 2023 by Cookies United LLC. This omission directly led to the fatal incident on January 11, 2024.
  • Failed Responsibility: The complaint details how Stew Leonard’s and its employees ignored multiple notifications about the ingredient change. These notifications included updated labels and nutrition facts panels indicating the presence of peanuts.
  • Cover-up and False Statements: Following Ms. Baxendale’s death, Stew Leonard’s attempted to shift the blame onto Cookies United LLC through a press release, which was later proven to be false. Cookies United LLC responded with their press releases, clarifying that Stew Leonard’s had been informed about the ingredient changes.
  • Regulatory Violations: The defendants are accused of violating federal and state food safety laws, including the FDA Model Food Code and other relevant standards, by failing to properly label the Florentine Cookies.
  • Impact on Family: Ms. Baxendale was a talented dancer and a scholarship student at the Alvin Ailey School. Her death has left her family, including her parents, Angela Josephine Baxendale and Simon Baxendale, and her siblings, devastated.

The lawsuit demands monetary damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

Read the complaint

Contact Howard Hershenhorn: [email protected] and 516-695-9009 for any questions.

SOURCE Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf

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Fallon Wolken

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