Model Who Suffered Brain Damage After Eating Pretzel Awarded Eight-Figure Sum

Chantel Giacalone, a model and actress, was awarded $29.5 million by a jury on Friday. In 2013, Giacalone was left brain-damaged after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel. Her attorneys said the MedicWest Ambulance medics who responded to her emergency did not have the life-saving treatment as required by the Southern Nevada Health District.

"At least my daughter will be taken care of. I’m happy about that," Ciacalone's father, Jack Giacalone, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the verdict. "All the anguish that we’ve been through for the last eight years, I’m not happy about. I just hope MedicWest changes their ways." The verdict followed a three-week civil trial.

Chantel Giacalone getty images
Chantel Giacalone in 2011. (Photo: Beck Starr/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Giacalone, now 35, took a bite from a peanut butter pretzel at a Las Vegas convention in February 2013. She went into an anaphylactic shock, and oxygen stopped flowing to her brain for minutes after she sought treatment from MedicWest Ambulance, which was overseeing a medic station that day. Attorney Christian Morris argued that the company was negligent, noting that the two medics on duty at the time were not carrying IV epinephrine, as the Southern Nevada Health District required. Instead, the medics used intramuscular epinephrine. However, the IV was needed if a patient is in full anaphylaxis.

Morris pointed out that the drug only cost $2.72. She asked the jury for over $60 million in damages for medical expenses, and pain and emotional suffering. MedicWest denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Giacalone did not lose consciousness because of its medics. However, the company's attorney, William Drury, told the jury that $8 million in damages was appropriate if they did find the company negligent.

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Giacalone is now under 24-hour care from her parents in Detroit, where she lives in their dining room. She can only communicate with her eyes and is fed through a tube. Her mother, Deborah, sleeps by her side each night. Giacalone is the oldest of three siblings and lived in Los Angeles at the time of her allergic reaction. Her film credits include The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, Hollow Walls, and Skyler. Jack said they plan to invest the money the jury awarded them into Giacalone's care. They also hope to buy a new home that will better fit her needs.

"I don’t want her to go anywhere else. I love her, and she loves me,” Deborah testified during the trial. “It’s very hard to take care of her, but I would not have it any other way.”