Not So Nuts: Mother Sues American Airlines Over Serving Peanuts

A New York mother, Tehmina Haque, has sued American Airlines for injuries suffered by her son when he came into contact with peanut oil on a flight due to the in-flight peanuts. Even though her son did not go into anaphylactic shock due to his severe allergy, she sued the airline for negligence. While this is not the strongest case due to the lack of a more tangible injury, it is not a frivolous issue. I remain shocked that airlines serve peanuts given the relatively high number of people (including many children) with potentially life-threatening reactions to the product.

Haque claims that she specifically asked at booking and before booking about the risk and was assured that no peanuts would be served on the flight. She says that she was then served peanuts soon after take-off.

A recent lawsuit over the issue against Continental Airlines was dismissed in New Jersey.

Peanut allergy is the most prevalent food allergy in the US with as many as 1.5 million people suffering from the disease, click here. It is also considered the most common food-based cause of death.

Schools have finally responded to this research and taken steps to protect children. Two of my children have had to forego peanut products due to kids in their classes with the disease. We were more than willing to forego peanut sandwiches to help protect the child. (Notably, a few years ago, parents actually refused to comply with such a directive in Virginia — insisting that the child’s health was not their problem).

Given the large number of people affected and the life-threatening risk of contact with even residual peanut oil, I view the decision of some airlines to serve peanuts to be grossly negligent. Moreover, it is astonishing that Congress or the FAA have not banned these products. Obviously, an airline cannot eliminate every possible risk, but peanut allergies are extremely common.

For the full story, click here.

11 thoughts on “Not So Nuts: Mother Sues American Airlines Over Serving Peanuts”

  1. My peanut allergic son and I flew on Southwest one time (his first time to fly) and within 10 minutes of being in the air (no matter how strict I was about him not touching anything), his eyes started swelling up. I knew what was happening and I told the flight attendant. She just said coldly “Well, I hope you have your medicine”. This was my 4 year old!! He was just breathing the air. Needless to say, we will not be flying Southwest again! The whole process was horrible, no matter how many times I called to ask about it. There was NO notation that he was on the flight, noone cared. Guys, people are deathly allergic to alot of things. My son is also deathly allergic to MILK but I am not worried about milk getting on him. But. PEANUTS, they stick to everything as peanut butter, the oils stay in everything they touch and the peanut dust just doesn’t settle and go away. I understand the opposers views (I was one of them before I had a child with these allergies) but the mama bear comes out when you just want to protect your child.

  2. Marvin:

    “I grew up knowing that I was the weird one,…”


    If you truly believe these words everything you said afterward about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” naturally and sadly follows. We have a real dearth of perfect people on this planet, not the least of which were those who have compelled you to feel this way. By the way, societies don’t suffer, only people do.

  3. I am in my 40s and I’ve had severe peanut allergies all my life (long before peanut allergies became fashionable). I’ve NEVER once asked my classmates or co-workers to refrain from eating peanut based products while in my presence. I grew up knowing that I was the weird one, so I took all necessary precautions, including leaving the room if necessary. On flights, I brought extra Benadryl and an epi-pen. This sense of entitlement makes me wretch. When are people with special conditions going to take responsibility and stop making society suffer for their maladies?

  4. Binx101:

    Assuming such a valid disclaimer, I would think that an express warranty in derogation of the general disclaimer would control. The parties can modify the deal at anytime, and the customer seems to have taken extraordinary steps to verify the agreed-upon exception to the general rule. I don’t think trapping your customers would “fly” with most courts.

  5. Mespo:

    Doesn’t the disclaimer from the airline most clearly indicate the nuts could in fact be present – even though it is their practice not to serve peanuts, that they do serve other nut products, and therefore there is an expectation of risk?

  6. The case points up the dilemma of suing only on the basis of emotional disturbance. The anxiety experienced by the mother was understandable, but in my opinion not actionable. Though mislead about the food choices, there was, as pointed out above, no injury or harm to the child except perhaps some heightened risk which our commentator from the UK quite logically tells us was in reality no risk at all. I think my state of Virginia has it right. There is no recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress absent a physical injury flowing from the distress. Here there appears to be none, nor could there be one,and the case should likely be dismissed.

    However I do disagree with Binx101 on one point. The airline is different from the passenger with the mouth chock full of nuts because it is a common carrier with the highest duty of care,and it warranted to the mother that nuts would not be served PRIOR to her accepting the ticket. That is clearly a contract violation and she is likely entitled to contract damages.

    Ultimately, this is not the type of case that should be brought. It’s claim of injuries is weak as Prof. Turley notes, and it places a very real problem in an absurd light. I think that the Plaintiff should have simply accepted this turmoil as a part of life and moved on.

  7. I’m going to toss in with VoiceofReason.

    Samantha pointed out that she undergoes training each year for administering Epinephrine to students. Since teachers are an extension of parents, this would appear to be a logical activity. Certainly in this case – if an allergic student were to come in contact with nuts – it would be accidental.

    What makes this Airline (that I also won’t fly anymore for other reasons including hiring disinterested bean counter as CEO)any more responsible for a passenger with a mouth full of nut clusters breathing on the boy while reaching for his laptop.

    Yes indeed, there is much to be said about the allergic property of nuts, but are we now to penalize the general public for second hand nut matter and use it as basis for legal liability?

    Lastly I understand JT’s concern about having a nut-free society, but after experiencing several years of a nut-free Congress, I’m inclined to volunteer time to teach epipen administration instead of any further suspension of nuts. (Of course I apologize)

  8. Another money-grab:

    ‘Her lawsuit claims she was “tense and fearful .. that her son would have an anaphylactic reaction while imprisoned 35,000 feet in the air,” according to Newsday.’

    Her being ‘tense and fearful’ does not equal her son being “served” peanuts and forced into shock. Matter of fact, nothing happened to him.

    As a parent, how about being a little more proactive and responsible and reading the airline’s policy on peanuts?

    Thus –

    “American recognizes that some passengers are allergic to peanuts. Although we do not serve peanuts, we do serve other nut products and there may be trace elements of unspecified peanut ingredients, including peanut oils, in meal and snacks. We make no provisions to be peanut-free….Additionally, other customers may bring peanuts on board. Therefore, we cannot guarantee customers will not be exposed to peanuts during flight and strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.”

    So, she should have known about the ‘potential’ harm that could come to her child had she even cared to pay attention. No different than the danger present if she walked her kid into a lake and told him to swim to the other side.

    For the record, I’m deathly allergic to shellfish and can’t stand American Airlines – but the ultimate responsibility in this case lies with the parents.

  9. Samatha:
    Thank you for that wonderful insight. I now forgive you for burning our Capitol in 1814. ( I am working on Benny Hill, but healing is an on-going process).


  10. I agree wholeheartedly. It is indeed worse than foolhardy- dare I say, stupid, to ignore the potential damage that can be caused by simple proximity to peanuts.

    As a secondary school teacher in the United Kingdom, we are made to undergo Epipen training each year, in order to best protect our nut- allergic pupils.

    The worst case of anaphylaxis I have ever seen, was after a school swimming trip and the poor child’s reaction was brought on by what? The bus driver having had peanut butter sandwiches at home, three hours earlier!

    America is well-known to be overly litigious, but in this case- you go for it, Ms Haque!

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