Family of girl who died at Camp Sacramento reaches multi-million dollar settlement with the city

Natalie Giorgi 13, who died at camp from peanut allergy with her mother Joanne and her father Louis. photo courtesy Giorgi family
Natalie Giorgi 13, who died at camp from peanut allergy with her mother Joanne and her father Louis. photo courtesy Giorgi family

The family of a 13-year-old girl who died of an allergic reaction after eating a snack containing peanut butter has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the city of Sacramento, their lawyer announced Tuesday.

Details of the settlement will be announced at an 11 a.m. press conference on Wednesday, said Roger Dreyer, a personal injury lawyer who has been handling the case.

In a prepared release, Dreyer said the city, which owns Camp Sacramento, would also announce reforms to “ensure the safety of future campers.”

He could not be reached Tuesday evening for further details.

Natalie Giorgi went into anaphylactic shock July 26, 2013, after eating a Rice Krispies Treat during a hula hoop contest on her family’s last night of a four-day vacation at Camp Sacramento, a popular vacation spot near Lake Tahoe that has been visited by thousands of families since it opened in the 1930s.

The lawsuit said the snack contained peanut butter that had been mixed into a marshmallow filling “in such a way as to be visually undetectable” and also “difficult or impossible to determine that the treat contained peanut butter by taste.”

During a 2014 interview in Dreyer’s office, the Giorgis said their daughter was diagnosed with the peanut allergy at age 3, when she had a mild reaction to either hazelwood or macadamia nuts. They said that after the diagnosis, she never again displayed any symptoms of the allergy until the night she died.

During a hula hoop competition, the parents left the main dining hall for a moment to get some cereal for the next day’s breakfast, when their daughter ran up to them and said, “I ate something. I ate a Rice Krispies Treat, and it it didn’t taste right.”

Louis Giorgi, a urologist and former Navy flight surgeon, always kept two EpiPens for just such an occasion, to inject his daughter with epinephrine to combat an allergic reaction if symptoms appeared. For 20 minutes, the parents sat with their daughter, who at first appeared to be fine. Then she told them, “Oh my God, I might get sick, “ and she vomited and almost immediately stopped breathing.

Louis Giorgi injected Natalie with the epinephrine, but “she didn’t respond, so I gave her another EpiPen (dose) right away, “ Giorgi said.

The injection failed to stop the fatal allergic reaction. “She was suffocating, “ Giorgi said. “And she was frantic. There was terror in her eyes.”

The couple had taken their daughter into a nurse’s station, where Dr. Giorgi broke open a medicine cabinet to get a third EpiPen. “It just didn’t work, “ he said.

Paramedics arrived but were unable to revive the girl.

Dreyer, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in the 2014 interview that the city has not provided information on its protocol for preparing and labeling food for people with fatal allergies.

The lawsuit said that in the family’s previous visits to Camp Sacramento, the staff at the facility on U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado County either didn’t make anything with peanuts or peanut butter or clearly marked the foods as containing the ingredients.

Joanne Giorgi, Natalie’s mother, said the family of six had been to Camp Sacramento three previous times and loved the programs for the kids, the hiking, the friendship and the trips to Pope Beach at nearby Lake Tahoe.

Joanne Giorgi testified in support of a new law that requires school districts to stock at least one injector that is prescribed to the school or district, rather than to a specific person, and to train at least one staff member on how to use it. Giorgi’s other three children have food allergies as well, she told The Sacramento Bee in 2014.

Mary Lynne Vellinga: 916-321-1094, @MLVellinga. The Bee’s Andy Furillo contributed to this report.

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