A Quebec waiter was arrested for allegedly serving salmon to a severely allergic customer. (Photo:REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
People working in the restaurant industry may want to be a lot more cautious when dealing with allergic customers, or they could end up facing criminal charges.
In what is considered to be a first in Canada, a Sherbrooke, Que., waiter was arrested this week for allegedly serving salmon to a severely allergic customer.
Gatineau, Que., resident Simon-Pierre Canuel went to dine at the Le Tapageur restaurant in late May with his partner but ended up coming out of the restaurant on a stretcher.
He alleges that he almost died after ingesting salmon tartare — even though he had ordered beef tartare and been served a wrong order. Canuel claims that the waiter was careless after he being told several times that he was allergic to sea food.
Canuel also alleges that the waiter didn’t take notes and never bothered to inform kitchen staff of his allergies.
Due to dim lighting, Canuel didn’t realize right away that he was eating fish but by that point it was too late and he suffered an allergic reaction and went into a coma for two days.
In July, he filed a complaint against the waiter with Sherbrooke police, who arrested the man shortly after. For the first time in this type of case, police are recommending criminal charges against a waiter.
If the waiter is going to be charged, it’s likely he will be charged with criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence in the criminal code, states that a person is criminally negligent “who in doing anything, or in omitting to do anything that is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other person.”
One of the issues in this case revolves around the duty of care of servers when dealing with customers who have food allergies.
A duty of care is defined as a responsibility to meet a certain standard of behaviour to ensure that someone doesn’t face “an unreasonable risk of harm.”
Restaurants can be exposed to liability where an establishment knowingly serves something to the customer, at the risk of harming that customer or other people.
If the waiter is charged, this case will set a precedent in holding servers criminally accountable for the welfare of customers who have food allergies.
Even if the waiter doesn’t end up facing criminal charges for the incident, the consequences of such carelessness are still wide reaching, as Canuel is also planning to sue the restaurant.