Model gets $30M after pretzel leaves her with brain damage

A Las Vegas court has awarded nearly $30 million in damages to the family of a model who was left with brain damage after having a severe allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel.

Chantel Giacalone’s family received an amount of $29.5 million on Friday after a jury decided that responding medical technicians improperly treated her condition in 2013, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“At least my daughter will be taken care of. I’m happy about that,” the model’s father, Jack Giacalone, stated after the verdict was announced.

At 27, Giacalone was working as a fashion model at a trade show at the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center when a friend offered her frozen yogurt topped with a bite-sized pretzel on Feb. 20, 2013.

Giacalone, who said she dreamed of becoming an actress, dug into the snack and went into anaphylactic shock. She was unaware that the pretzel was infused with peanut butter, to which she was allergic. The model immediately contacted her father who instructed her to use her EpiPen, take Benadryl, and get proper medical care immediately, which she did.

Her friend, who inadvertently poisoned Giacalone, told the court that when she got to the medic tent it was obvious that her friend would not be able to take Benadryl. Her throat was quickly closing and she was already black and blue. She said that the model’s rings looked like they were about to burst off of her swollen fingers.

She recalled Giacalone repeating the words: “Don’t let me die. I don’t want to die” as she attempted to reassure her inside the medical tent. 

Her attorney, Christian Morris, claimed that the model lost oxygen to her brain for several minutes after receiving treatment from MedicWest Ambulance, which was in charge of the medic station at the trade show.

Throughout the three-week civil trial, Morris made the case that the two medics on the scene during the incident did not have IV epinephrine, an adrenaline treatment for serious allergic reactions, which is mandatory from the Southern Nevada Health District.

The medics were only carrying an intramuscular epinephrine in their bags, which they used to treat Giacalone; however, IVs are necessary when a patient is experiencing full anaphylaxis.

“Every minute of Chantel’s life has been inextricably altered,” Morris told the court. “Every single minute since she walked into that medic room to a company that chose profits over patient care.”

MedicWest has denied any wrongdoing and explained that the outcome was unavoidable due to Giacalone’s intense sensitivity to peanuts.

Giacalone’s father refuted this. “The truth came out. Because what happened in that room was nothing. They let my daughter linger,” he said.

“All the anguish that we’ve been through for the last eight years, I’m not happy about,” the father continued. “I just hope MedicWest changes their ways.”

At the time of the medical emergency Chantel was on the road to a promising acting career, with parts in the 2009 nonstop thrill ride “The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations” and an internet series called “Hollow Walls.”

Chantel is now 35 and a quadriplegic. The former model can only eat through a tube and all communication is done with her eyes, the Review-Journal reported.

Her parents now facilitate Chantel with around-the-clock nursing care. They said the money they were awarded from the lawsuit will be spent on the care she will need for the rest of her life as well as a new home that is more accommodating to her special requirements.

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