Natick Family Sues Panera over Sandwich Served to Allergic Child

The Russos say their six-year-old found peanut butter in her grilled cheese.

Photo via iStock/RiverNorthPhotography

Photo via iStock/RiverNorthPhotography

A Natick family is suing Panera and a group of New England Panera franchises over a sandwich that allegedly sent their six-year-old to the hospital.

The lawsuit, filed in Middlesex District Court by John and Elissa Russo, alleges negligence after their daughter, who has a peanut allergy, received a grilled cheese with a dollop of peanut butter inside.

Elissa Russo says she placed an order online in January, noting in two places that the sandwich would be for a child with a peanut allergy. The complaint says Panera “engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by adding peanut butter to the plaintiff’s grilled cheese sandwich knowing that [she] has a life-threatening peanut allergy.”

As Russo called their pediatrician, her daughter repeatedly asked, “Am I going to die?” After Benadryl proved ineffective, the child was taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Just before she was about to be discharged, the child became covered in hives and required an epinephrine shot.

John Russo told the Globe he called Panera’s Natick location the night of the incident and the manager apologized, citing a “language” issue.

The complaint also notes a similar incident at the Wayland Panera, in which another allergic child received a grilled cheese that contained peanut butter, resulting in a anaphylactic reaction that required hospitalization. Both the Wayland and Natick locations are owned by the Newton-based PR Restaurants.