On Friday, April 9, a jury awarded $29.5 million to the family of a model who suffered brain damage after being treated by MedicWest Ambulance for a serious allergic reaction in 2013.
The New York Post reported that Chantel Giacalone bit into a peanut butter-infused pretzel while attending a Las Vegas conference in February 2013. The 27-year-old aspiring actress and model went into anaphylactic shock as a result. Her brain was oxygen-deprived for a few minutes after seeking treatment from MedicWest Ambulance, which operated the medic station that day.
During a three-week civil trial, Giacalone’s attorney Christian Morris claimed that MedicWest was reckless in treating Chantel Giacalone’s allergic reaction.
Morris said that neither of the two medics on the scene had IV epinephrine, an adrenaline antidote for serious allergic reactions that the Southern Nevada Health District requires. Morris also explained that the medics only had intramuscular epinephrine in their bags, which they did use, but that the IV is needed when a patient is in full anaphylaxis.
“Every minute of Chantel’s life has been inextricably altered,” Morris said in court. “Every single minute since she walked into that medic room to a company that chose profits over patient care.”
The cost of the medication, according to the attorney, was just $2.42. She sought more than $60 million in damages from the jury for past and future medical costs, as well as past and future pain and suffering.
Tara Retes, Giacalone’s friend, bought her frozen yogurt on that day and topped it with a bite-size pretzel. Giacalone bit into the pretzel around 3 p.m., was unaware that it contained peanut butter. She called her father, who advised her to use her EpiPen, ask Retes to get her Benadryl and seek medical help right away.
According to the family’s lawyers, the request for emergency dispatch didn’t come until 3:11 p.m., after Giacalone had passed out and stopped breathing, according to the family’s lawyers.
On the other hand, the medics testified that they called for advanced life support as soon as she arrived because they were aware of her critical condition. Giacalone, they said, was still breathing in their care.
The testimony was supported by a 3:11 p.m. call from medics to the Clark County Fire Department, according to MedicWest’s attorney, William Drury. On that call, a woman was described as “breathing and having trouble breathing.” He assured the eight-member jury that $8 million in penalties would suffice if the company were found liable.
MedicWest denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Giacalone’s heightened sensitivity to peanuts made the result unavoidable.
Before leaving for Las Vegas, Chantel’s father, Jack Giacalone, informed his daughter that he would be attending the trial.
“I told her, ‘Don’t worry, the truth will come out. And we’re going to finally find out what happened to you that day in the room,'” he said. “And she started crying. She’s still in there. She still has emotions. She’s still crying. But when I get home, I’ll see her, and we’ll straighten everything out.”