Lawsuit Alleges University of Maryland Fed Gluten to Student with Celiac Disease

February 26, 2020

A student who has celiac disease says in a lawsuit that a Maryland state university deliberately served her food containing gluten.

The lawsuit from Allegany County native Hannah Smith said the University of Maryland, College Park, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by serving her food with gluten at least three times in the span of an academic year, news outlets reported. The lawsuit was filed Feb. 20.

Smith was diagnosed as a teen with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that can damage the body’s intestinal walls and cause long-term health complications. A gluten-free diet is one way to treat the disease.

The lawsuit said Smith and her father spoke to the university about her dietary needs before committing for her to live on campus. Students who live on campus are required to buy a meal plan.

The lawsuit said the school assured Smith her needs would be accommodated but in the 2017-2018 year, Smith was served gluten at least three times even after Smith asked whether the food contained gluten. The food made Smith sick and she was hospitalized on one occasion, the lawsuit said.

One staff member told Smith the university doesn’t take food allergies seriously, while another berated Smith and served her blackened toast for making a complaint, the lawsuit said.

The university didn’t refund the cost of the meal plan to Smith and the school charged her extra to move into an apartment with a kitchen the following year, the lawsuit said.

A spokeswoman for the university declined to comment, The Baltimore Sun reported. The woman referred questions to the Maryland attorney general’s office who said they haven’t been served a copy of the complaint as of Friday.

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