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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Court Reinstates Gluten-Free Boy's Lawsuit Against Colonial Williamsburg Tavern

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A federal appeals court says a jury should decide if a Colonial Williamsburg restaurant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when they barred a boy from bringing his gluten-free meal into their tavern.


    Caption: Colonial Williamsburg Virginia. Image: CC--watts_photos

    Celiac.com 06/17/2019 - A federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit filed by a boy with celiac disease against a Colonial Williamsburg restaurant. The court ruled that a jury should decide whether the restaurant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when they barred a boy from bringing his gluten-free meal into the Shields Tavern.

    The lawsuit lists the boy's name as J.D. Because J.D. has celiac disease and follows a strict gluten-free diet, he couldn't eat with his classmates on their May 11, 2017, field trip. The staff at the Shields Tavern told J.D. that they could make a gluten-free meal for him,  but they could not allow him to eat his own food in the tavern, which is owned and operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

    J.D. had had problems before with gluten-free restaurant meals that were not, in fact, gluten-free. Since he hadn't eaten at Shields Tavern before, he declined their offer to make him a gluten-free meal. Because of Shields Tavern rules against outside food, J.D. was forced to eat a homemade meal apart from his friends and teachers. 

    J.D. may have facts on his side. A recent study shows that most gluten-free restaurant food contains gluten. J.D.'s father chose to sue the foundation, arguing it violated the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the Virginians with Disabilities Act. The initial lawsuit was dismissed before trial by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith, who held that J.D. did not show that he suffered discrimination because of his disability.

    In a 2-1 ruling that reinstated J.D.'s lawsuit, Judge Albert Diaz, writing for the majority, noted that Shields Tavern has high gluten-free meal standards that may be okay for most people with celiac disease, and a jury might decide they are good enough.

    But, added Diaz, “The district court incorrectly overlooked the testimony that J.D. repeatedly became sick after eating purportedly gluten-free meals prepared by commercial kitchens. Until a jury resolves the disputes surrounding the nature and extent of J.D.’s disability, we cannot determine if the accommodation Shields Tavern offered, as good as it may be, fully accounted for his disability.”

    Read more at Richmond.com


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    Guest Fellow sufferer

    Posted

    I support JD!  Anytime I eat out I take a risk. Unless the restaurant has a dedicated area and cookware/ovens there is always the likelihood of cross contamination. I, for one, don’t like taking that chance. His only other alternative was to refrain from the trip. Definitely discrimination, but from ignorance of the disease. 

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    Guest Guest post 2

    Posted

    I totally agree, it is a risk every time a celiac eats at a restaurant . Been there done that at a pizza place that insisted they followed strict practices for cross contamination . Later found out they had just put the pizza right on the racks of all the others , after I became quite ill . Teaching food safety and making employees actually follow them are two different things . It was not a fun long weekend get away with stomachs, migraines and hives . I wish people could understand these food issues . Seems only thing they get is peanut allergies and even that’s debatable.

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    This same thing happened to me when I was pregnant with my 2nd child.  We took our 2 year old on the “Santa Train Ride” in Jim Thorpe, PA, where at the time lunch options in the town were not plentiful.  I brought pb&j on gluten-free bread and they told me I could NOT eat my sandwich in their restaurant, despite having not a single gluten-free option in the menu.  Ridiculous.

    Edited by Dana D

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    Guest Gavin Ayling

    Posted

    I did eat at Colonial Williamsburg, and I don't believe I was accidentally glutened, but as other posters have said, this is always a gamble while there are no repurcussions for staff and restaurants that fail. Go JD!

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    Oh please! If JD was that sensitive, (like me), he should have chosen to eat apart from his friends. Those kids were eating, breathing, spreading gluten everywhere. And don’t tell me kids don’t do that, we know they do!

    Furthermore, most all restaurants ban outside food because of liability issues because people like to sue!

    Dad, seriously, your making your kid out to be a misfit who will grow up feeling separated from society, he got a bad deal with Celiac but let him live and cope with it as best he can. This court case will “brand” him for life regardless of the outcome.

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    I also have been glutenized when I have eaten out at restaurants that said they had gluten free items on their menu. I will not eat out any longer without being allowed to bring my own food. I do call ahead if I am on a group trip( I'm a senior) and ask if I can bring my own food. So far I have been very lucky because I have been allowed to bring my own food. I always buy a bottled water or drink and tip like I had a meal. I live in CT maybe that makes a difference.

     

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    Guest CeliacDiagnosis2009

    Posted

    I'm so sad for JD.  It's no fun to be invited to an event with friends and/or loved ones only to be set apart to another area where you possibly can't even SEE interactions amongst them much less participate in them!  Unfortunately, that is the life I've been dealt and the sooner I accept it, the better off I will be.  So … I generally turn down invitations to events like that unless I can eat a full meal before I arrive so that it is easier for me to sit with my friends and enjoy their company while they are eating OR I try to hold events in my home that will only provide food that are safe for me while being completely delicious for those who don't have to be so careful!  But … I don't want to burden others because of my lot.  Making food establishments accommodate my disease only causes insurance premiums to go up, cost of goods to go up and end user prices to go up.  It is not fair for everyone to be forced to pay extra for me.  Celiac was given to ME, not them.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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