Winnipeg woman sues Tim Hortons alleging cream in tea led to hospitalization

Winnipeg woman sues Tim Hortons alleging cream in tea led to hospitalization
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Sean Kilpatrick
Tim Hortons signage is pictured in Ottawa on Wednesday Sept. 7, 2022.

A Winnipeg woman is suing Tim Hortons alleging a staff mistake that added cream instead of almond milk to her tea led to a severe allergic reaction and stopped her heart for several minutes.

The lawsuit for Gabrielle Lien Ho, 25, was filed last week against the popular coffee and food chain, along with Restaurant Brands International, which is the company that owns Tim Hortons, and the operator of the franchised Winnipeg location that Ho visited.

The statement of claim alleges the defendants failed to properly train employees on how to handle drink requests that require modifications or substitutions.

The document also alleges Tim Hortons failed to advise Ho of the risks of ordering through the app and staff at the location failed to properly check the order.

It says Ho’s injuries were the result of cream being added to her tea instead of almond milk.

None of the claims have been proven in court and none of the companies have filed statements of defence.

An email from Tim Hortons on Tuesday said it can’t comment on the case as it’s before the courts. But the company said it takes allergies seriously.

“While we communicate with guests that Tim Hortons restaurants are not a 100-per-cent allergen-free environment, we do take preventative measures to reduce the risk for guests with allergies,” it said.


The lawsuit says that on the morning of June 9, Ho ordered a tea using the Tim Hortons mobile app, and she replaced the dairy option with almond milk.

At the time, the claim alleges that there was no further information on the app to add special instructions, including a warning of an allergy.

Ho says she picked up the beverage from the Tim Hortons at Kildonan Place mall before heading to her shift at a clothing store in the same mall.

“After taking just one sip of her tea, the plaintiff, who has a diagnosed milk protein allergy, immediately began suffering from an allergic reaction,” the lawsuit says.

The document says Ho then called her mother, who helped her use an EpiPen, before a co-worker drove her to the closest hospital.

On the way to the hospital, Ho’s health “deteriorated,” says the statement of claim. It says she was in and out of consciousness and unable to enter the hospital on her own.

“Various employees of Concordia Hospital performed CPR for approximately eight minutes until the plaintiff’s heart spontaneously restarted,” the document says.

According to the statement of claim, she was moved to an intensive care unit at another hospital, where she stayed until June 12.

Ho is suing for general damages for pain and suffering, mental distress, past and future loss of income and future costs of care, as well as a trust on behalf of her mother, who has been off work to care for Ho.

Following her hospitalization, the statement of claim says Ho developed an acute, severe headache as well as vision loss and a tingling or burning sensation and weakness on her left side.

An MRI also found Ho showed signs of a condition that can arise after the brain has suffered a period of a lack of oxygen, says the lawsuit.

The document says Ho was transferred to a rehabilitation centre June 29.

“To date, the plaintiff continues to work on recovering … it remains unknown if the plaintiff will make a full recovery,” the document says.

“The plaintiff has lost her independence and requires care. She has had to move into her mother’s home so that her mother can care for her.”

The lawsuit says Ho continues to live with fatigue, tremors and balance issues that prevent her from taking part in daily activities without assistance.

Jason Harvey, Ho’s lawyer, said Tim Hortons should make changes to its app so a situation like what happened to his client doesn’t occur again.

“Where an online application sells a product meant to be ingested, it should be expected that it provides an opportunity for consumers to advise of any allergy concerns in order to ensure the safety of all consumers,” he said in an email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

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