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Luxury spa in Berkshires sued for $1 million after allergic reaction to veggie burger

A New York City woman who is allergic to nuts is suing the owners of a luxury resort in the Berkshires for $1 million in federal court after she was served a veggie burger that contained cashews, causing a life-threatening reaction, according to court papers.

Kristin Chu Smart and her mother had just started their spa weekend at the Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Lenox in December 2017 when she was served the burger that contained nuts, the complaint stated.

Chu Smart went into anaphylactic shock, breaking out in hives, and she vomited in the back of an ambulance, according to the complaint. She also had to administer an Epi Pen herself, after a doctor at the resort said she “did not have experience administering epinephrine,” according to the suit.

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She and her mother were not able to complete their stay at the resort.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in US District Court in Springfield. Her mother, Clara Chu, is also a plaintiff in the suit. The pair are seeking damages from Canyon Ranch on various claims, including negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deceptive business practices.

Chu Smart’s attorney, Laurel J. Francoeur, of Woburn, said in an e-mail Wednesday they are seeking $1 million in damages.

A spokesperson for Canyon Ranch said in a statement the resort does not comment on matters in litigation.

The lawsuit states that an informational packet prepared by the resort wrongly omitted cashews as an ingredient in the veggie burger and that wait staff at the luxury spa confirmed at least twice that the dish did not contain nuts.

In a statement, Chu Smart said she had discussed her severe nut allergies with staff at the retreat multiple times. She said she had planned to spend “a special weekend” focusing on health and exercise with her mother at the resort, which she said prides itself on offering experiences to “become stronger. Healthier. Truly well.”

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“I actually thought I was going to die,” she said in the statement. “My experience is a sobering lesson that even when you take every step to ensure safe eating, restaurant staff requires more teaching about allergy awareness and severity, in addition to instituting proper measures to ensure accurate ingredient information.”


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.