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Nut allergy leads to breach of contract suit for school

A religious private school is being sued by the parents of a former student for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The lawsuit alleges that the school did not uphold the agreement that it made with the parents of the student to take some measures to protect her from exposure to nuts and to treat an allergic reaction if it occurred.

Children with severe nut allergies can go into anaphylactic shock from exposure to nuts and if left untreated the allergic reaction can be fatal. Most schools, daycare facilities, and summer camps have adrenaline quick-delivery devices on hand to treat these allergic reactions quickly while they wait for an ambulance.

According to the complaint, the school agreed to keep and administer an adrenaline shot in the event of an allergic reaction but later said that they would not. The school also apparently agreed to a nut-ban for other students to lower the likelihood of an allergic reaction and later did not enforce that ban. The school cited religious observances as a reason for their conduct.

The parents of the student say that faculty at the school assured their daughter that the nut allergic would not be harmful or deadly to her and was likely "all in her head."

In addition to the breach of contract claim in this case, the parents of the child are also claiming that the school breached their fiduciary duty to the child by not protecting her in any way from potentially fatal nuts.

These types of contract disputes are difficult for many businesses and individuals who seek to uphold both the terms of a contract that they have signed and to act according to their own beliefs and sense of morals. There may also be issues of religious freedoms in this case if the court allows a financial penalty for adhering to the tenants of the religion. Again, these issues are much more complex because of the added issues of the contract, the verbal agreements made by the parties, and the tuition paid in reliance on those agreements.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Nuts Welcome at Faith-Healing School," Matt Reynolds, August 21, 2012.

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