Las Vegas Jury Awards Nearly $30M to Model Brain Damaged in Allergic Reaction

Posted on: April 14, 2021, 01:22h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2021, 06:21h.

A jury has awarded $29.5 million to the family of model Chantel Giacalone, left brain damaged after biting into a peanut butter-infused pretzel during a Las Vegas convention.

Chantel Giacalone
Chantel Giacalone poses in 2011 at the world premiere of the movie Skyler in Beverly Hills. Two years later, she would suffer an allergic reaction at a Las Vegas event. (Image: New York Daily News)

Family attorney Christian Morris argued during the three-week civil trial in Las Vegas that MedicWest Ambulance was negligent in treating Giacalone during an allergic reaction, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The eight-person jury delivered the verdict on Friday.

Giacalone, then 27, had been in Las Vegas on Feb. 20, 2013, to model clothes at a fashion show in the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center. The aspiring actor had been living in Los Angeles and participating in anti-bullying campaigns.

The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is at the southwestern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the now-demolished Hacienda Casino once stood. 

At the Las Vegas event, Tara Retes, a friend, had given Giacalone a frozen yogurt topped with a small pretzel. Giacalone did not know the pretzel had peanut butter in it. After biting into it, she went into anaphylactic shock, the newspaper reported.

Giacalone sought care at the the medic station, which MedicWest Ambulance was running that day.

Morris said in court that the two medics at the station did not have IV epinephrine, which the Southern Nevada Health District requires, the newspaper reported. This is an adrenaline to treat severe allergic reactions. MedicWest officials participated in the task force that developed this requirement. Giacalone lost oxygen to her brain after seeking treatment, the family attorney said.

Morris sought $60 million for medical expenses and for past and future pain and emotional suffering.

MedicWest denied wrongdoing, saying Giacalone did not lose consciousness while medics were caring for her. Giacalone’s heightened sensitivity to peanuts made the outcome inevitable, the company said.

24-Hour Care

Giacalone, now 35, lives in the dining room at the Detroit-area home of her parents, Jack and Deborah Giacalone.

At one time, while living in Los Angeles, she had been an up-and-coming actor, appearing in several movies. They include The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, Hollow Walls, and Skyler.

Now her parents provide round-the-clock care for their quadriplegic daughter. 

Chantel Giacalone communicates with her eyes and is fed through a tube. She is expected to live to age 55, the newspaper reported.

‘I Love Her’

Deborah Giacalone, 59, sleeps next to her daughter at night.

“I don’t want her to go anywhere else,” Deborah Giacalone said at the trial. “I love her, and she loves me. It’s very hard to take care of her, but I would not have it any other way.”

Jack Giacalone, 70, said money from the judgment will be used for his daughter’s needs. The family would like for her to have her own room and a special shower, the newspaper reported. Jack Giacalone also plans to contribute to a foundation that helps people with brain injuries.

“I don’t know how Chantel didn’t die,” her father said. “But she lived for a reason.”