Family Of Model Chantel Giacalone Awarded $29 Million In Peanut Allergy Case
A jury in Las Vegas awarded $29.5 million on Friday to the family of a model who was left brain damaged after being treated for a severe allergic reaction to peanuts by the ambulance service, MedicWest Ambulance.
The jury agreed the ambulance company was negligent when treating then-27-year-old Chantel Giacalone in February 2013.
Giacalone was modeling clothes at Mandalay Bay South Convention Center when she bit into a pretzel given to her by a friend. She was not aware that there was peanut butter inside. Giacalone had a severe allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock.
Giacalone’s lawyer, Christian Morris, said Giacalone went without oxygen for several minutes after seeking care from MedicWest Ambulance personnel, who were working at the convention center.
Morris argued that the medics never used intravenous epinephrine to treat the allergic reaction, which is required by the Southern Nevada Health District. Intravenous epinephrine is used when the patient has already gone into anaphylactic shock. Instead, they only treated her with intramuscular epinephrine.
“IV epinephrine is required when a person’s allergic reaction is so severe that their circulatory system is about to collapse. In this case, the medics failed to recognize and quickly react to Chantel when she presented at the medic room,” Morris told People. “She told them she was having an allergic reaction, she told them she was allergic to peanuts and had bitten into a pretzel, and she told them she was not having any relief from her epi-pen. Instead of immediately giving her intermuscular epinephrine (which they did have in their bags) they checked her blood glucose because they thought she maybe had an altered mental status.”
Morris said Giacalone “was fearful and agitated” while interacting with the medics because she was ‘hypoxic’ and losing oxygen to her brain.
“They again ignored it and wasted precious time on seeing if she was ‘on something’ even though she had clearly told them about her allergy. Due to the failure to administer the intermuscular epinephrine, the need for IV epinephrine was vital, and they didn’t have it,” Morris said. “Instead, when she went unconscious and stopped breathing they gave her a double-dose of intermuscular epinephrine, which didn’t help her since her body was no longer circulating blood effectively and couldn’t pull the medication from her muscle into her bloodstream.”
MedicWest denied negligence and argued that the outcome was inevitable due to the severity of Giacalone’s allergy to peanuts. The medics testified that Giacalone continued breathing while in their care and they immediately called for advanced life support when she arrived at their location.
Giacalone is now a quadriplegic and requires around the clock care. She can only communicate with her eyes.
Giacalone’s parents said they plan to donate some of the money to organizations who help people with brain injuries. They said they also plan a buy a house that would make caring for their daughter easier.