Lawsuits filed against Chesterfield workers in peanut allergy death

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Two major lawsuits have been filed against Chesterfield County employees, after the 2012 death of a 1st grader at Hopkins Elementary School.

Amarria Johnson stopped breathing, and subsequently died, after eating a peanut. The lawsuits asks for millions of dollars and a jury trial, blaming school leaders and health workers at Amarria's school.

"She was very charismatic, she was one of those children that everyone loved," said Laura Pendleton in a 2012 interview, shortly after her daughter died.

Amarria's death resonated so strongly, there's a law named after her now to help protect other students with allergies.

Two years later, a wrongful death lawsuit holds accountable a school nurse and a clinic aide. It also lists the Commonwealth. It says Pendleton tried to bring an EpiPen to school, but the aide turned it down. It goes on to say that when Amarria needed the life-saving injection, the aide didn't have it, and also decided not to use other EpiPens available at the school.

The suit also suggests a clinic worker called Pendleton, instead of 911, when Amarria started showing symptoms. It goes on to say that 911 wasn't called until Amarria had stopped breathing and a police officer was doing CPR.

The lawsuit asks for $10 million and a jury trial.

A second lawsuit names six county officials as defendants, including Superintendent Marcus Newsome, a former school board member, and two school spokespeople: Shawn Smith and Tim Bullis. Two other school leaders were also named.

This lawsuit claims the school and county employees undertook a "public relations smear campaign" suggesting that Amarria's death was caused by her mother's inactions. The suit goes on to say statements were made by school representatives that implied Pendleton never brought a life saving EpiPen to school.

We reached out to the defendants listed in the case but did not hear back from any of them.

An attorney representing the county employees did write back, saying it is county policy not to comment on pending litigation. The Attorney General's Office cited the same policy for the Commonwealth.

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