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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Gluten in Soup at Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel Injured L.A. Man, Lawsuit Claims

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A lawsuit accuses Grand Canyon's El Tovar Lodge of "permanent injury" over gluten in French onion soup.

    Caption: El Tovar Hotel in Moonlight. Image: CC--Grand Canyon Nat. Park

    Celiac.com 04/23/2019 - A bowl of French Onion soup at Grand Canyon's El Tovar Lodge contained hidden gluten that left a Los Angeles artist with a "permanent" injury, claims a recently filed lawsuit.

    As a result of an adverse reaction to the soup, Todd Serlin is suing Grand Canyon's concessionaire, Xanterra, for more than $100,000, according to the suit, now in federal court.

    The federal complaint states that Serlin and his partner, Mark Bauer, had booked a room at the historic El Tovar on December 27, 2016, and dined in the hotel's restaurant overlooking the South Rim of Grand Canyon.

    Serlin has celiac disease, and is "extremely careful" not to eat anything with gluten. The autoimmune condition causes problems in the small intestine when gluten, a molecule in wheat products, is consumed. 

    Serlin claims he "asked the waitress to confirm with the chef that there was no gluten in the base of the soup," and Serlin the chef confirmed the soup was gluten-free, the suit says.

    After eating the soup, Serlin then ordered a duck entree with rice and vegetables.

    According to the suit, Serlin became ill an hour or two later: "His symptoms intensified into waves of nausea, radiating abdominal pain, a migraine headache, vomiting, and then diarrhea. It was later determined that the restaurant served Todd food that contained gluten."

    The suit claims that Serlin "suffered severe and permanent personal injuries" from the experience, and "will continue to suffer, for an indefinite time, great pain, suffering, significant discomfort, and a loss of quality of life."

    Serlin is represented by the Scottsdale law firm Hymson Goldstein Pantiliat & Lohr, PLLC. The original suit was filed in Coconino County Superior Court in early March, but the case was moved to federal court.

    What do you think? Legitimate complaint, gross over-reaction, or right on the money? Share your thoughts below.

    Read more at: phoenixnewtimes.com

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    Guest Hockey-mom


    On 4/29/2019 at 11:19 AM, roocat said:

    I believe I read about this case previously. My guess (and that's all it is), is that he verified that the soup base was gluten-free, but that, instead of prepping him a new bowl, they simply took the crouton off an existing bowl. If that crouton sat on the soup for any length of time at all, the soup would have been contaminated with crumbs. That being said, I think he's over-reacting. Short of a totally gluten-free restaurant, you take a risk every time you eat out, no matter how much you confirm things with the wait staff and the kitchen. You need to think about what you're ordering, and what the likelihood is that it may be contaminated. I, personally, would never order French Onion Soup, or anything else traditionally prepared with a large slice of bread in liquid, anywhere other than a totally gluten-free place. Having said that, "severe and permanenent personal injuries?" Really? I doubt it. Unless he has refractory celiac or is newly diagnosed, in which case eating out anywhere would likely be considered a very bad idea, his celiac should be manageable. Uncomfortable until his gut calms down and other symptoms abate? Yes. Perhaps embarrassed and annoyed at having this reaction at the hotel? Certainly. Angry at the restaurant staff? Undoubtedly. But assuming his celiac was already well controlled through diet, one incident won't redamage his gut to the extent it no doubt was prior to diagnosis. He should drop the suit, get back on his diet and let his gut calm down, and get on with life.

    I agree totally with roocat.  Is celiac annoying, frustrating, depressing and issue prone sometimes?   Of course.  But there are many, many more severe and debilitating diseases we could be dealing with.  I am thankful I only have Celiac.  Shame on him for trying to get rich over this.   

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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 biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. 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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