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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


How Responsible Are We For Each Other?

Peanut  allergies are more common now than ever before.  In schools around the country, administrators are taking special precautions  to ensure the safety of those students who are allergic to peanuts. These measures are important. Young children cannot always be trusted to be careful.

Schools can’t prohibit peanut butter from schools entirely because poor and low-income students often  buy peanut butter

People who are allergic try  to avoid contact with peanuts because peanut allergies can often be very serious or fatal.  However, schools cannot  control everything. There comes a time when people have to understand not every personal encounter can be monitored.

According to News 12, a recent lawsuit adresses  this issue.  The plaintiff is seeking $3 million  in damages. Before she voluntarily quit, the plaintiff  worked as a cashier in a Babies ‘R’ Us but became seriously ill after coming in contact with a peanut candy a customer was eating.

She argues the manager should have moved the peanut candy, which was near her station. But a store isn’t like a classroom where the teacher or professor has complete  control over a specific area.

The lawsuit cannot ensure that she wont come  in contact with the outside wrapper or even the breath of someone eating it, which is sometimes enough to trigger a reaction in allergic individuals.

Should the managers have eliminated peanut related products from the store entirely? If so, what would keep customers from bringing peanut butter prodcuts in the store to eat as a snack?  This lawsuit clearly shows that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own health, and raises a question – At what point do managers stop being responsible?

In a News 12 conference, the worker said, “You always have to look over your shoulder and look for your surroundings, of what’s around you.” She then goes on to say how fatal this allergy is to her.  If she knew she had to be constantly aware of what people were eating, she obviously knew that  getting extremely sick is always a possibility.

Since it’s always a possibility, why is she suing a corporation that has no control over its shoppers eating habits? The incident could have happened anywhere.

Does that mean  people can’t eat a peanut butter sandwich  during their lunch hour because the people around could be allergic?

What if a woman was eating peanut candy she had in her purse?  Can  she be sued? The store isn’t responsible. The customer brought it in with them. The only person that would be responsible for the allergic reaction would be the customer.

Does this mean anyone can be in danger of paying a huge fine?   This lawsuit is walking a fine line of setting a dangerous precedent. It brings up the serious issue of responsibility and

the difference between individual and group responsiblity in a society.

I believe the solution in cases like this is to determine whether  or not the action malicious. Someone who knows of an another person’s allergy and purposely presents or exposes  them with the allergen is liable

However, what in the world does the plaintiff need $3 million for? I highly doubt the medical costs of one incident could equal $3 million.

This case is more than just about allergies. It is about individual liability. McDonalds wasn’t liable for making people fat for eating their food.

In a world where people are already cautious, maybe it is time  for people to refocus their energy on making sure  organizations actually do hold safety responsibilities and adhere to them. Making sure the FDA inspects our food and drugs will insure a large company treats its workers properly and follows ethical guidelines.

All too often, we hear about people who are injured due to government agencies and private companies shying awayfrom  protecting their customers. A good example of this negligence is the e.coli outbreaks, which are often on the news.

From the outside, this case might seem like it is pointless. However, the case opens the floor to debate. It  forces us to examine everything – how we take care of ouselves and how and we hold those who really are responsible for us accountable.

Hopefully, in the future, we wont have to worry about being liable for wanting a snack and can rest assured knowing  our legal system is being put to good use, prosecuting those who are really putting us in harms way.

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