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Successful claim by prisoner with peanut allergy given the wrong meal

Leigh Day have settled a compensation claim by an ex-prisoner, who, despite having a lifelong peanut allergy, was given a meal while in prison that contained peanuts leading to him suffering an anaphylactic reaction and stroke, leaving him with significant disabilities.

Posted on 31 July 2017

It was accepted that prison staff were aware of the man’s nut allergy.  It was also accepted that he was not given the meal that he had ordered, which didn’t contain peanuts, because they had run out and he was instead offered a replacement meal that did contain peanuts.

It was further accepted that the prisoner specifically asked the serving staff and overseeing prison officer whether this different meal contained peanuts.  

Lawyers for the man from the prison law team at Leigh Day argued that he was told it did not contain peanuts, while the Ministry of Justice’s case was that he was told that the replacement meal contained peanuts but took it anyway.

The man, known as Mr A, disputed that he was told that the meal contained peanuts.  

His position was that it would have made no sense for him to take a meal that he knew would make him very ill.  Furthermore, if he really hadn’t cared whether it contained nuts or not, then he would not have asked in the first place.

The Ministry of Justice continue to deny liability but the matter was settled two days before the trial with Mr A accepting a substantial five-figure sum together with the payment of his legal costs.

Mr A stated:

“I am grateful to my legal team, Sean Humber of Leigh Day solicitors and Shaheen Rahman QC of 1 Crown Office Row, for their hard work in bringing this claim to a successful conclusion although I am disappointed that it took the Ministry of Justice so long to settle the matter.

“I remain unhappy that I have a permanent disability as a result of the prison’s failure to ensure that the meals they provided me were safe, especially as I had told them about my peanut allergy and asked them about the meal before I took it.

“Since the incident, I have been determined to turn my life around and play a much more constructive role in society.  Since my release, I have been involved in a mentoring scheme that offers support to young offenders and warn them of the dangers of a life of crime.  I warn them that they don’t want to waste their life as I have done with so much of mine.”

Sean Humber, Head of Prison Law at Leigh Day stated:

“All too often we are contacted by prisoners with particular dietary requirements, whether for medical or religious reasons, who tell us that their needs are ignored and they are simply treated as an annoyance or inconvenience.

“Prison authorities owe a duty of care towards prisoners to take reasonable care of their safety.  This sad case highlights the responsibility of the Prison Service to properly cater for prisoners’ dietary needs and the serious consequences that can occur when they fail to do so.”