A woman who attended a Florida wedding earlier this year has filed a lawsuit against the caterer for the event, alleging that the business served food infused with cannabis at the reception. Virginia Ann Taylor-Svoboda, the plaintiff in the legal action, says that she “became immediately ill” after unknowingly eating food that was laced with “poisonous” amounts of marijuana, according to a report from the Miami Herald.
The wedding was held on February 19 in the city of Longwood, Florida, about 15 miles north of Orlando. After several guests reported that they felt high or stoned at the reception following the ceremony, emergency medical personnel and sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene to render aid, eventually taking several guests to a local hospital for treatment.
A police report filed after the wedding reception revealed that food served at the event was sent to a lab for testing. The reports of the lab analyses showed that lasagna and bread served at the celebration tested positive for THC, the cannabinoid largely responsible for the high commonly associated with consuming marijuana.
Taylor-Svoboda filed suit in Seminole County against Joycelyn Bryant and her company, Joycelyn’s Southern Kitchen, asserting that she had no idea that the food served at the wedding reception contained cannabis. A complaint filed in the suit alleges that Taylor-Svoboda suffered from “marijuana poisoning” after consuming food served by Bryant’s company. The lawsuit, which requests a jury trial for the case, accuses Bryant of negligence and seeks more than $30,000 in damages from the defendant and her business.
“(Bryant) knew, or should have known, that allowing the food served by (Joycelyn’s Southern Kitchen) to be laced with marijuana was reasonably likely to cause injuries and damages to wedding guests,” the lawsuit maintains.
Bride And Caterer Arrested In February
In April, Bryant and the bride, Danya Shea Svoboda, were arrested and charged with violating the Florida Anti-Tampering Act, delivery of marijuana and culpable negligence, according to the report from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Affidavits filed in the case allege that Svoboda “agreed to and allowed Joycelyn Montrinice Bryant to lace the food she served … with cannabis unbeknownst to the attendees, many of whom became very ill and required medical attention,” according to a report from CNN.
When deputies from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the reception, several wedding guests were being treated by county fire rescue personnel for “symptoms consistent with that of someone who has used illegal drugs,” according to police records.
When a deputy asked the bride and her new husband, Andrew Svoboda, whether they had requested or consented to the food being infused with cannabis, Andrew “stared at (the deputy) with a blank expression for a few moments before stuttering through a ‘no,’” the affidavits state.
Lab tests showed three wedding guests had urine tests that were positive for cannabis, according to court records filed in the criminal case. Some wedding guests reported that they felt “stoned” and “ill and high,” the affidavits report, while another guest said that he felt “weird, tingly, fidgety, and had an extremely dry mouth” after eating food served at the wedding reception. When a woman asked the caterer if the food contained marijuana, Bryant “giggled and shook her head yes,” the report states.
According to the affidavits, one woman told an investigator that while she was at the hospital, she felt paranoid and “believed her husband … wasn’t telling her the truth about other family members,” adding that she had thought her son-in-law had died and no one was telling her. She said she became loud and unruly in the hospital emergency room and had to be sedated to calm her down.
Defendants Face Food-Tampering Charges
The Tampa-based Sammis Law Firm reported that Florida’s Anti-Tampering Act “covers tampering with food as well as tampering with certain types of drugs, devices, or cosmetics.” Attorneys noted that the statute is not often used, in part because “the statutory language is poorly written and fails to track the federal food anti-tampering law.” The firm also notes that the “terms used in Florida’s Anti-Tampering Statute are extremely vague, leading to constitutional challenges by criminal defense attorneys.”
“Local law enforcement officers will investigate any such allegation and take swift action. These crimes can be charged as a third-degree, second-degree, or first-degree felony depending on how the tampering occurred and the harm caused,” the firm explains. “Many of these crimes are committed by juveniles because of the often impulsive nature of the offense.”
The criminal case against Bryant is ongoing. She is due for her next appearance in court on January 11.