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Stew Leonard's sued for wrongful death in mislabeled cookie case. Here's what both sides are saying.

Death of dancer who ate mislabeled cookie called "100% preventable"
Death of dancer who ate mislabeled cookie called "100% preventable" 02:26

WATERBURY, Conn. -- Stew Leonard's is facing a wrongful death lawsuit from the estate of a woman with a peanut allergy who died after she ate a mislabeled cookie and suffered a severe reaction. 

Orla Ruth Baxendale, 25, died on Jan. 11 after she ate a Florentine cookie sold by Stew Leonard's and went into anaphylactic shock, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Cookies recalled after woman's death

The cookies were mislabeled and did not indicate that they contained nuts.  Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection

The holiday cookies were sold under the Stew Leonard's brand at stores in Danbury and Newington in late 2023 before the grocery store issued a recall

The cookies were produced by Cookies United, a Long Island-based wholesaler, which was also named in the lawsuit along with several Stew Leonard's employees. 

The lawsuit stated failing to properly label the cookie package "was grossly negligent, intentional, reckless, callous, indifferent to human life, and a wanton violation as the manufacturer and seller were required under the law to properly declare the ingredients." 

A spokesperson for Stew Leonard's, which has eight stores in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said they could not comment on pending litigation. Cookies United's general counsel did not respond to an email seeking comment on the suit. 

Stew Leonard's blames manufacturer

President and CEO Stew Leonard Jr. said in a video statement after Baxendale's death, "It was a holiday cookie, it was a one-shot deal. But we bought it from an outside supplier, and unfortunately the supplier changed the recipe and started going from soy nuts to peanuts, and our chief safety officer here at Stew Leonard's was never notified." 

Leonard said his stores sold roughly 500 packages of the cookies before the recall. 

An attorney representing Cookies United told CBS New York they had sent multiple emails to Stew Leonard's alerting employees about the change in ingredients. Another statement said Stew Leonard's repackaged the cookies and created the labels. 

"Her death was completely, 100% preventable"

Baxendale moved to New York City from the United Kingdom in 2018 to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer. She was in Connecticut to perform when she ate the cookie. 

"Her death was completely, 100% preventable and avoidable. It's why packaging is so important," Marijo Adimey, the family's attorney, told CBS New York two weeks after Baxendale died. 

Adimey said Baxendale's friends told her she checked the ingredients list before she ate the cookie. 

"To make sure that there wasn't anything in terms of peanuts on the label. There wasn't. So, safely she thought, she had a bite or two of the cookie, and within a minute started to go into anaphylactic shock," Adimey said. 

Baxendale "carried EpiPens everywhere she went," according to her family's attorney. But CBS New York medical contributor Dr. Nidhi Kumar said it may not have been enough to prevent anaphylactic shock. 

"People that have very severe allergies, they may need multiple doses," Kumar said. "With anaphylaxis our blood vessels dilate, so what an EpiPen is doing is counteracting that, having your blood vessels constrict." 

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of money and punitive damages. 

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