New Castle News

December 27, 2013

Mom sues over daughter’s choking death

Joe Pinchot
Sharon Herald

SHARON — The mother of a Mercer Elementary School third-grader who died after choking on a hot dog has sued the company hired by the district to handle lunches, two of its employees and a company hired to monitor food safety at the school.

Aizeya R. Mattocks, 8, choked Feb. 13, 2012, at the school and died two days later at a Pittsburgh hospital.

The girl died of asphyxiation, according to the suit filed Dec. 13 by her mother, Amber Mattocks of Mercer.

She sued AVI Food Systems Inc. of Warren, Ohio, the lunch contractor; Cynthia Cillo of Pittsburgh, AVI’s district manager; Jane Ferguson of Fairview Township, AVI’s resident director for Mercer schools; and NSF International, Ann Arbor, Mich., which audited AVI’s food safety program at Mercer and created food safety guidelines.

The eight-count suit alleges negligence, wrongful death and vicarious liability.

The suit said 10,000 children under the age of 14 visit emergency rooms each year for food-related choking.

About 70 children a year under the age of 10 die of food-related choking and 17 percent of those deaths are caused by hot dogs, which can “act as a plug and wedge itself into the airway,” the suit said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recognized the dangers of hot dogs and food-related choking, the suit said.

AVI should not have served hot dogs or cut them into smaller pieces, and trained employees in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the suit said.

NSF should have identified AVI’s policy of serving hot dogs to children and advised them to stop, the suit said.