Family whose daughter died in pancake-eating contest sues Sacred Heart University

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It happened at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. (Left: Facebook, Right: Sean Kaschak)

The mother of a Connecticut college student who choked to death on pancakes during an eating contest on campus last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university.

Rosanne Nelson sued Sacred Heart University on Monday in Bridgeport state court over the death of her daughter, 20-year-old Caitlin Nelson, of Clark, New Jersey. The lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount of money and accuses the school of approving the contest despite the dangers and failing to provide adequate medical personnel.

"Caitlin's family is bringing this case to expose the dangers associated with amateur eating contests and to help prevent other families from having to endure this type of preventable tragedy," said Katie Mesner-Hage of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which represents the family in the lawsuit filed in Superior Court. "These contests are significantly more dangerous than people realize and it's critically important for the public - especially educational institutions - to understand that certain foods are safer than others and a modicum of forethought can literally save lives."

Officials at the Catholic university in Fairfield declined to comment.

Caitlin Nelson was a junior social work major whose father, police officer James Nelson, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan.

She died at a New York City hospital three days after participating in the eating contest.

Nelson planned to obtain a master of social work upon graduating from Sacred Heart, said Mesner-Hage. Nelson also devoted her time to the Resiliency Center of Newtown, working with children affected by the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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