‘For me, it was life threatening’: Woman sues over pineapple

A CENTRAL Queensland woman has commenced legal action after she suffered what she says was a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to pineapple at a citizens' jury event in Brisbane.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Rockhampton principal lawyer Meghan Rothery said Emerald's Kaleen Jasperson, 25, was at RACQ's head office in Brisbane on March 14 when she went into anaphylactic shock and was taken to hospital.

Ms Rothery said at the time of the incident, Ms Jasperson had been participating in a citizens' jury event organised by RACQ Insurance Ltd and facilitated by independent firm, Democracy Co.

Both organisations are listed as respondents in a claim lodged by Maurice Blackburn, on behalf of Ms Jasperson, through the Queensland Public Liability Scheme.

Ms Jasperson participated in the citizens' jury event in Brisbane after being invited to do so by the RACQ.

Ms Rothery said prior to attending, Ms Jasperson had been asked by event organisers to advise of any allergies or medical conditions.

She said Ms Jasperson complied with this request and notified of her pineapple allergy.

Ms Rothery said at the event, the jury group was also asked, before their first time eating at the RACQ premises, to see a designated first aid officer present if any of them had allergies.

Ms Jasperson recalled the first aid officer had all of her allergy and medical information documented on a spreadsheet correctly because she was required to "tick it off as correct."

Ms Rothery said on March 14, the citizens' jury group stopped at 10.30am for morning tea.

She said Ms Jasperson went downstairs and had a smoke with other jurors.

Ms Rothery said when Ms Jasperson returned to the conference room she saw that a plate of food had been placed at her spot at the table where she had been sitting.

She said Ms Jasperson knew that at a previous in-person session in February, her food had been provided on individual plates for her.

Ms Rothery said on March 14, Ms Jasperson saw that the plate at her spot at the table had a yellow sticky note on it containing her name - it also listed her three food allergens (including pineapple) and the word "anaphylactic".

She said it was clear to Ms Jasperson that this was her allocated food plate.

Ms Rothery said Ms Jasperson peeled back the gladwrap covering the plate and picked up a piece of honey dew melon to eat.

She said just as the honey dew melon touched Ms Jasperson's lips she noticed a piece of pineapple on her plate.

Ms Jasperson said she believed the yellow sticky note had covered her view of the pineapple, and she believed that the pineapple juice would have contaminated other food on the plate.

Ms Rothery said after the melon touched Ms Jasperson's lips they began to swell and she started to sweat.

She said Ms Jasperson raced out of the room to get the designated first aid officer.

Ms Rothery said the first aid officer phoned an ambulance and administered Ms Jasperson's own EPI pen (adrenaline autoinjector).

Ms Rothery said ambulance officers attended and Ms Jasperson was taken to QEII Hospital in Brisbane where she stayed for about four hours under observation.

Speaking to The Morning Bulletin, Ms Jasperson said she knew as soon as she took a bite from the melon what was happening "and it was terrifying."

"It is completely unacceptable that this happened," Ms Jasperson said.

"For me this was life threatening."

Ms Rothery said Ms Jasperson "could not have done more" to make RACQ and Democracy Co aware of her allergies and to try and protect herself.

"The fact that this happened through RACQ's own caterers is unacceptable, and as the evidence clearly shows, they knew of her allergies but still failed to ensure she wasn't put at risk," she said.

RACQ spokeswoman Renee Smith said regrettably a juror with a noted allergy to pineapple was served pineapple on her morning tea plate by caterers at the CTP Citizens' Jury session on March 14.

"Meals were provided by independent caterers on behalf of RACQ and the caterers were advised of juror food allergies prior to the jury sessions," she said.

"On learning of the error, our first aid officer immediately called an ambulance and one of our staff then travelled in the ambulance with the juror to the hospital and remained there until the juror was released several hours later.

"RACQ has been in contact with the juror on a regular basis since the incident and we were very pleased she was able to return to the jury when it next met a fortnight later."

A spokeswoman for Democracy Co said the organisation was not party to this issue as the caterer was hired and briefed by RACQ.

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