The family of an aspiring actress and model receive a $29.5 settlement.
The family of a woman left brain damaged after being treated for an allergic reaction has been awarded $29.5 million. Chantel Giacalone, an aspiring actress and model who was 27 at the time, went into anaphylactic shock after accidentally ingesting peanut butter that was inside a pretzel while in Las Vegas for a convention.
On Feb. 20, 2013, Giacalone was modeling in a fashion trade show at the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center. A friend, Tara Retes, bought them both frozen yogurts while they were working her booth and put a bite-size pretzel on top. Retes wasn’t aware of her peanut allergy, and neither realized the pretzel had peanut butter inside.
According to Retes’ testimony during the court proceedings, Giacalone bit into the pretzel and asked Retes what was in it. “I kind of tasted it again, and I said, ‘I think there’s peanut butter,’” Retes said. “And she jumped back, and she said, ‘I’m allergic.’”
Anaphylactic shock can occur within seconds of exposure to an allergen and can be life-threatening. Symptoms include a skin rash, nausea and vomiting, throat swelling and difficulty breathing, and shock. Once exposed, epinephrine should be administered immediately, and many individuals who have severe reactions carry Epipens. Giacalone did not have one with her.
Giacalone’s attorney, Christian Morris, said Giacalone “lost oxygen to her brain for a period of minutes after seeking treatment from MedicWest Ambulance,” and had alleged in a civil lawsuit that MedicWest Ambulance negligently treated her. The two medics who arrived at the scene did not have IV epinephrine, as required by the Southern Nevada Health District. Instead, they administered intramuscular epinephrine, which is not effective for full anaphylaxis.
“We are here today because a corporation put profits over patients, and that’s undisputed in this case,” said Morris “We know MedicWest is saving money, not lives…Every minute of Chantel’s life has been inextricably altered. Every single minute since she walked into that medic room to a company that chose profits over patient care.”
He argued there was no good reason for the first responders to not have the drug, which costs just over $2. The lawsuit had initially sought more than $60 million in damages for the model’s medical expenses and the emotional suffering of her family.
“At least my daughter will be taken care of. I’m happy about that,” her father, Jack Giacalone, said of the resolution. “All the anguish that we’ve been through for the last eight years, I’m not happy about. I just hope MedicWest changes their ways.”
Prior to the incident, Giacalone had roles in “The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations” and a web series, “Hollow Walls.” She is now quadriplegic and has to be fed through a tube. She can only communicate with her eyes.
MedicWest denied any wrongdoing and said the outcome was inevitable because of Giacalone’s heightened sensitivity to peanuts. Attorney William Drury argued Giacalone never lost consciousness.