The family of a college student who died after choking during a pancake-eating contest at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield has filed a lawsuit against the school.
Caitlin Nelson, a Sacred Heart University junior, died after choking during the eating contest on March 30, 2017. The contest was a school-sanctioned Greek life event to raise money for charity.
Nelson began struggling to breathe during the contest and first responders were called in to help. According to a press release from the family’s attorney, responding officers said they found a mass of pancake paste “like concrete” in her airway. Nelson died three days later at a New York City hospital.
According to the law firm representing the family, the lawsuit aims to highlight the dangers of amateur eating competitions.
The lawsuit alleges that Sacred Heart approved the contest and the use of pancakes “a particularly dangerous food to eat quickly,” and also failed to have medical personnel on-site in the event of an emergency.
Love is something that is shared immensely throughout Eta Nu and felt so deeply between each one of our sisters - that in itself can conquer absolutely anything. Heaven has gained an incredibly selfless and beautiful angel today. Someone that has touched each one of us in the most incredible ways and we will never forget that. Caitlin, we love you forever and are so grateful to be able to say we have known you. ❤️
“Caitlin’s family is bringing this case to expose the dangers associated with amateur eating contests and to help prevent other families from having to endure this type of preventable tragedy,” said Katie Mesner-Hage of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which represents the family. “These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize and it’s critically important for the public – especially educational institutions – to understand that certain foods are safer than others and a modicum of forethought can literally save lives.”
Nelson was from Clark, New Jersey, and was majoring in social work at the Catholic school in Fairfield. She was 20 years old.
Sacred Heart University said it could not comment on pending litigation.