Family Of Pennsylvania College Student Sues Sacred Heart University Over Death During Eating Contest

Drinking and eating contests were once the rage.  While most (though not all) of the drinking contests are gone, eating contests are still prevalent.  The risk of choking is obvious in such contests as is tragically evident in Connecticut in a new filing.  The family of Caitlin Nelson, 20, is suing Sacred Heart University for her death in a pancake-eating contest. The filing is based on “the preventable dangers associated with amateur eating competitions.”

The lawsuit alleged that responding officers found a mass of pancake paste “like concrete” in Nelson’s airway.

This is not the first tragedy for the Nelson family.  Caitlin’s dad was a Port Authority officer who died in the September 11th attacks.

The eating contest was part of the school’s Greek Week activities and Nelson’s sorority was participating to raise money for a children’s charity.  The complaint notes that the school did not actively monitor to prevent “chipmunking” where contestants hold food in their mouths.

Notably, Nelson died on March 31st.  On April 2, Travis Malouff, 42, died in an eating contest at Voodoo Doughnuts in Denver, Co.   The “Tex-Ass” challenge is available at all Voodoo locations and required contestants to eat a half-pound, seven-inch diameter doughnut in 80 seconds. Malouff died of “asphyxia, due to obstruction of the airway.”

Any negligence case could face a threshold question of a waiver, which is standard in eating contests held by businesses.  It is not clear if the University insisted on such a waiver in this case. There is also the question of Plaintiff’s conduct.  Under Pennsylvania General Assembly Statute §7102, Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule where you can recover only if you are less at fault than the defendant.  A plaintiff must be found to be less than 51 percent at fault to recover.

Since Nelson was an adult and voluntarily accepted the risk, where would you place the percentage of fault?

57 thoughts on “Family Of Pennsylvania College Student Sues Sacred Heart University Over Death During Eating Contest”

  1. If Sacred Heart College had the same in loco parentis clause which my first university invoked to justify curfews and bans on cohabitation between young men and women on campus, then unless they could produce a release of liability signed by the deceased young woman, it could get interesting for Sacred Heart. Once someone states that they stand “in the place of the parent” over someone, their liability for harm coming to that person increases over that of someone who hasn’t made that claim.

  2. In the near future, says Demographer Ken Gronbach, 70% of law school students will be women. The second most despised profession in America is that of the lawyer. China’s one-child policy was the greatest demographic blunder in the history of the world, according to Gronbach. 90 million Chinese men have no prospect of marrying. The Chinese ship of state is sinking due to the weight of its older population. American women have abandoned their natural function of bearing and nurturing the nation’s population sufficient to defend and grow the nation. The singular desire of women is to be men. Women are the true misogynists. America will vanish. Lawyer is the second most hated profession. Women will soon be the most hated people in America.

    “Because something is happening here

    But ya’ don’t know what it is

    Do you, Mister Jones?”

    – Bob Dylan
    Ballad of a Thin Man

  3. Off Topic:

    What are we to make of this 2018 study after all the wailing about rising sea levels from climate change:

    “Over the past decades, atoll islands exhibited no widespread sign of physical desta-
    bilization in the face of sea-level rise. A reanalysis of available data, which cover
    30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands, reveals that no atoll lost
    land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while
    only 11.4% contracted.”

    Are the atolls — or the mojo –rising?

    1. In the Mississippi Sound, barrier islands between the Gulf of Mexico and the Sound (the water between the islands and the mainland) change shape all the time as sand either erodes below the mean water level or builds up on the beaches, increasing some islands’ apparent area or decreasing it.

      I assume that Pacific and Indian atolls are subject to the same mechanisms, where sand can either add or subtract the mean land area over time. This may or may not be related to global warming or other alleged changes to mean sea level. Globally, the sea level is incrementally increasing.

  4. The great thing about America is that there are now so many lawyers looking for work, anyone is free to sue anyone else just to exculpate themselves from their own stupidity and accountability.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks
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