The family of a Maryland boy with a severe gluten allergy is suing a restaurant after they wouldn’t allow him to eat a meal he brought with him on a class trip inside.
The school traveled to Colonial Williamsburg of Virginia, a historic museum, and the boy, identified in court papers only as J.D., stopped for a prepaid dinner at Shields Tavern, which is part of the museum, as part of the trip.
J.D.’s father, who was a chaperone on the trip, informed the restaurant that the 11-year-old had brought his own meal, a chicken sandwich, with him because of his allergy, according to the lawsuit. The restaurant manager then informed the family that J.D. could not eat his food inside with his classmates because it was a health code violation, the lawsuit states.
To be able to eat, he would have to leave the establishment, the manager said, according to the family’s attorney. The tavern’s chef did offer to make a gluten-free meal for J.D., but due to having severe allergic reactions to allegedly gluten-free meals offered by restaurants in the past, the family declined.
“J.D. had started to cry. They were escorted out,” the family’s attorney, Mary Vargas, told InsideEdition.com. “He sat out back with his dad crying while his classmates were inside. He was never refunded the money he paid to be in the room.”
The family is now suing the restaurant, citing that it violated the American Disabilities Act.
“Refusing to allow him to eat a safe meal is a violation of federal state law,” Vargas said. “There’s a schedule when you’re on a field trip. To eat at a different time, he would have had to miss other activities.”
J.D.’s doctor also testified in court that it is “medically necessary” for him to be on a gluten-free diet.
The case was initially dismissed in district court in Virginia but the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the case should go to trial.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation said it was “disappointed” by the court’s decision to take the case to trial.
“We have a long and successful track record of preparing gluten-free meals for our guests and believe doing so is a reasonable accommodation, as noted by the dissenting judge,” a spokesperson for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation said in statement to Fox News. “We are analyzing the decision and considering our options.”
Vargas said the case is very important for many who suffer from celiac disease or food allergies.
“So much of what’s really important happens around the table, culturally socially, and educationally,” the attorney said. “If someone can be excluded from those gatherings because they can’t eat the food, they could miss out. They’re at a disadvantage.
"It’s basic decency, kindness and compassion.”