£415,000 damages over egg allergy death

A caterer who supplied a dessert containing eggs at a Sikh wedding must pay £415,000 damages to the widow of a man who died from an allergic reaction, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Kuldip Singh Bhamra knew of his allergy but believed he was safe because the wedding banquet was held in a Sikh temple and observers of the religion do not eat eggs.

The caterer, Prem Dubb, himself a Sikh, appealed against a decision at Oxford County Court in November 2008 when the damages were awarded after a finding of negligence.

Today three appeal judges upheld the ruling and ordered the damages to be paid, plus £36,000 interest.

Lawyers for Mr Bhamra's widow, Amarjit, argued that Lucky Caterers were negligent for supplying a dish called ras malai which allegedly contained the egg.

Mr Bhamra, a research chemist, and his wife had travelled from Birmingham to the Ramgarhia Temple in Forest Gate, London, in August 2003, for the wedding attended by more than 500 guests.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick, giving the ruling of the appeal court today, said that there was evidence that the number of guests exceeded expectations and Mr Dubb had sent out for further supplies.

The caterer had denied this but the county court judge had rejected that part of his evidence and found that he had bought in ras malai from an outside source and it contained egg.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick said it had not been found that caterers are under any obligation to give warnings that dishes may or do contain eggs. There was evidence that egg allergy affects just 0.1% of the adult population.

But in this case Mr Bhamra would not have expected there to be any egg in ras malai served at a Sikh wedding and would therefore have felt quite safe in eating it.

The appeal judges said they "feel justified in drawing the inference" that Mr Dubb was aware at the time of the wedding that some recipes for ras malai included eggs and if the dessert came from an outside source it might do so.

Satinder Hunjan QC, representing the widow, had told the judges at a hearing in October last year that eggs were "strictly forbidden" at the temple.

"The deceased would be entitled in the circumstances to expect that there would not be any egg or egg product in the food which was being served at the temple."

Mr Bhamra was aware of his allergy but did not have his adrenalin pens on the day of the wedding in August 2003. He fell into a coma and died three days later in hospital aged 49.

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