Authorities say 41-year-old Dana Hutchings died after he choked on tacos during the competition in August of 2019. It was held during a Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball game.
“People say all the time he knew what he was getting into, well clearly he didn’t,” said Martin Taleisnik, an attorney representing Hutchings’ son, Marshall.
The 8-page wrongful death lawsuit filed Monday alleges the Fresno Grizzlies owner, Fresno Sports and Events, did not possess the competence and/or experience to safely carry out an eating competition of that nature and failed to provide a medical response team that could have initiated lifesaving procedures.
It also alleges the organizers didn’t fully disclose the risks of the contest.
“If you don’t know all the pitfalls, how can you truly be consenting and participating freely and voluntarily? It’s a risk that resulted in a major loss to Marshall,” said Taleisnik.
After Hutchings’s death, a professional taco eating contest scheduled the following day was canceled.
Taleisnik says professionals in the sport of competitive eating physically train, unlike the amateurs at the event.
The lawsuit also notes alcohol was available during the event, contributing to the risk.
Marshall Hutchings is seeking an undisclosed monetary compensation for his father’s death.
“It’s the only way you can potentially compensate somebody for the loss of a loved one, it’s not a very good compensation in the big picture however it’s one of the only ways it can be achieved,” said Taleisnik.
Fresno Sports and Events declined to comment on the lawsuit. In a statement released following the death in 2019, the Fresno Grizzlies said:
“We are devastated to learn that the fan that received medical attention following an event at Tuesday evening’s game has passed away. The Fresno Grizzlies extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to the family of Mr. Hutchings. The safety and security of our fans is our highest priority. We will work closely with local authorities and provide any helpful information that is requested.”