Órla Baxendale was a professional dancer who suffered a fatal allergic reaction after consuming...

Órla Baxendale was a professional dancer who suffered a fatal allergic reaction after consuming a cookie that contained undeclared peanuts. Credit: Nir Arieli

The estate of a young dancer with a peanut allergy who died after eating a mislabeled cookie produced by a Long Island company has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, claiming the failure to properly label the package was grossly negligent.

Órla Ruth Baxendale, 25, died Jan. 11 after eating a Florentine cookie sold by grocery retailer Stew Leonard's and suffering an anaphylactic reaction, according to the lawsuit. Baxendale, who had a severe peanut allergy, had moved to New York City from England to pursue a career as a dancer and was in “the prime of her life,” according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Superior Court in Waterbury.

The batch of holiday cookies sold at Stew Leonard’s stores in Danbury and Newington in Connecticut late last year were later recalled. The cookies were produced by Islip-based wholesaler Cookies United and labeled with the Stew Leonard’s brand name, state officials said.

Both companies are named in the lawsuit, along with several Stew Leonard’s employees.

Failure to properly label the cookie package prior to sale “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,” according to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Stew Leonard’s said they could not comment on pending litigation.

The general counsel for Cookies United did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday evening.

Stew Leonard’s said in January that the supplier went from soy nuts to peanuts in the recipe without notifying their chief safety officer.

Cookies United had said they notified Stew Leonard’s last July that the product contained peanuts and that all products shipped to the retailer had been labeled accordingly.

Howard Hershenhorn, the attorney for Baxendale’s family, said her parents are heartbroken. 

“The parents have lost their beautiful, 25-year-old superstar dancer … and they are just in a state of deep mourning and grief,” Hershenhorn told Newsday. He added that the lawsuit seeks a substantial amount of money for the tragic loss and “changes to the systems that [Stew Leonard’s] had in place so that we can be assured that this can't happen again.”

Stew Leonard’s recalled several other mislabeled food items since the incident. 

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary and punitive damages.

With Lorena Mongelli

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