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Restaurant sued in death of girl, 13, at school

The family of a Chicago Public Schools seventh-grader who died last year after an allergic reaction to peanuts at a school party has filed a wrongful-death suit against the Chinese restaurant that provided the meal, claiming the student's teacher told the restaurant to avoid peanut products.

Gil Ross, an attorney for the family of Katelyn Carlson, 13, said CPS officials told them they had been aware of Carlson's severe peanut allergy.

The suit claims that Carlson's teacher, Jack Matsumoto, asked employees at the Chinese Inn Restaurant to make sure peanut products such as oils and sauces were not used in preparing the meals for a Dec. 17 party at Edison Regional Gifted Center in Albany Park.

"The school has advised us that they placed an order for Chinese food as a end-of-the-year party for a class of gifted children and that the restaurant had been advised that there were children who had food allergies, including peanut allergies, and that there should be no foods provided that had peanut products," Ross said.

The Cook County medical examiner's office determined that Carlson died of anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to a food allergy. But the office did not specify what food caused the reaction. Seeking independent verification, the Chicago Board of Education sent samples of the food to a lab at the University of Nebraska, which determined the food had trace amounts of peanuts or peanut products.

"(They) tested the food and determined it was heavily contaminated with peanut products and that this was the tragic cause of this child's death," Ross said.

Carlson's death shocked the North Side community where the family resides. Afterward, parents of Carlson's classmates said that Carlson was seen struggling for breath after consuming the food but that school officials did not give her epinephrine. Epinephrine is often used to alleviate allergic reactions.

The suit, filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court by Carlson's father, Michael Carlson Jr., seeks more than $100,000 in damages. An employee who answered the phone at the Chinese Inn on Friday said the restaurant's owner, Xiang Zhong Mei, was not available for comment.

Officials at Edison have made the campus peanut-free.

jhood@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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