Lawsuit Alleges ‘Whole 30’ Diet Caused Deadly Car Accident

Lawsuit Alleges ‘Whole 30’ Diet Caused Deadly Car Accident March 12, 2019

An Oregon driver is being sued for $3.5 million after he ran over a woman in a grocery store parking lot. According to the court documents, the man was on the “Whole 30” diet plan and was lightheaded when the accident occurred.

On September 21, 2017, Susan Matthies shopped at Safeway grocery store. After she finished her shopping trip, she went out to the parking lot to load the groceries into her car. While she packed her car, Robert Morgan pulled into the parking lot.

According to the lawsuit, Morgan was following a strict diet plan called the “Whole 30.” The suit alleges that Morgan skipped breakfast and lunch on that day. He missed the meals because he was returning home from a trip to Amity, Oregon. At the time of the crash, Morgan was lightheaded and nauseous.

As he arrived at Safeway, he pulled into the parking lot. He failed to see Matthies and he drove into her car. After he hit Matthies’ car, he proceeded to run her over.

After the accident, an ambulance transported the woman to the hospital. She passed away that evening from the injuries she sustained from the car.

Following Matthies’ death, police investigated the accident. Evidence police collected at the scene and through interviews determined that Morgan was not intoxicated nor criminally negligent.

Unsatisfied with the result of the criminal investigation, the family of Matthies decided to file the civil lawsuit against Morgan. Matthies’ estate is suing Morgan for negligence associated with her death.

The suit alleges that Morgan should not have been driving after he became nauseous and lightheaded. Instead of pulling over, the suit says he continued to operate the car despite his “health issues.” Because he was hungry due to his restrictive diet, the estate alleges he was “driving while distracted.”

Matthies’ estate is asking for damages to cover funeral and medical expenses. Additionally, the estate says by losing their loved one they want non-economic damages of $3.0 million. In total, the suit is requesting $3.5 million from Morgan for the unfortunate accident.

While the family has a right to be upset about Matthies death, I’m not sure that the “Whole 30” diet is to blame. Morgan’s hunger wasn’t a result of the diet but rather that he skipped two meals that day. Instead of eating on his trip home, he attempted to hold off until he got to a grocery store.

Perhaps the estate is attempting to blame the diet because Morgan would have had a tough time finding food to meet the program’s guidelines. The “Whole 30” diet eliminates many ingredients, drinks, sugar, and grains. Fast food would not have been an option for him on his trip home.

Even with that excuse, the lawsuit seems like a bit of a stretch. Should he have eaten before he left that day? Probably. Was he negligent for continuing to drive while hungry? I don’t know.

With the criminal case already closed, the civil lawsuit is the final attempt of the family to seek justice for their loss. Civil suits have a lower burden of proof than a criminal trial. Therefore, a judge or jury may side with the family.

We will have to see how the case plays out in court. This would be the first documented death associated with the “Whole 30” if the family prevails.


*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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  • phatkhat

    I hope they win. Regardless of the “diet”, the driver shouldn’t have been driving if he was impaired. If you are on one of those crazy fad diets, then for heaven’s sake, take some of your special food with you, if you can’t get it at restaurants or C-Stores. I have zeto sympathy for the driver, but a lot for the family of the dead woman.

    I stumbled on a website today touting this diet and a couple of others. Fad diets are just more woo designed to sell books to gullible people looking for a quick fix. Moderation in all things.

  • No, he was negligent. He wasn’t “hungry”. He’d starved himself to the point where his blood sugar dropped dramatically, literally passing out behind the wheel, which wouldn’t have happened but for his choice to adhere to a restrictive diet and skip meals.

    I’d love to be a fly on the wall at his trial.

  • Exactly.

    Impaired is impaired, whether you’re drunk, stoned, took cold (or allergy) meds, or your blood sugar is too low. It’s your responsibility to know where your head’s at, and not drive if you’re not completely sober.

  • NikkiofAmystika

    Or, if you insist on trying a fad diet, break your diet for one day due to extenuating circumstances and start back on it tomorrow.

  • Knitting Cat Lady

    A few years ago a colleague of mine died after having a heart attack at the wheel of his car. He was on the Autobahn and managed to steer the car onto the break down strip before passing out and dieing.

    If you pass out due to a medical problem you have no control about there is no negligence.

    If you have certain medical disorders you’re barred from driving.

    If you inflict a medical condition on yourself, like starving yourself to the point of passing out, getting behind the wheel is negligent and should be treated like drunk driving. Because it’s exactly the same thing.

  • Jim Jones

    “Them that does the hitting does the paying”.

    — My Uncle

  • plusaf

    Yep, “impaired” and voluntarily so, would be my argument against him. Kinda doubt he’ll qualify for accident or liability insurance for a while.. like, a lifetime or so….

  • Courtney Keith Kiplimo

    The Whole30 does not advocate not eating/skipping meals. This really has nothing to do with the Whole30 — fruit, veggies, a hard boiled egg are all compliant and pretty readily available, even while traveling. It was an unfortunate choice not to eat that led to unfortunate, dire consequences.

  • Jet King

    I fast regularly for 18 hours to 3 days or more. I still drive. I have never been too “lightheaded” or “nauseous” to be safe behind the wheel. There has to be more to this story…

  • Erik1986

    I agree. Of course, someone who’s into a fad diet (I don’t know about this specific one), might skip the necessary hydration as well.

  • His choice not to eat was a direct result of following a “diet” that was too restrictive.

  • persephone

    Everyone is different. That you can fast for days without issue does not mean that everyone else can.

  • Jet King

    Perhaps not everyone does. But most people could. It’s ludicrous to assume that missing a single meal or even a few will result in this type of impairment in a healthy, non-diabetic individual. The human race would never have survived if we became gibbering idiots every time we hadn’t eaten in more than 3 hours. The fact is, our hormonal systems are more than capable of mobilizing energy from our fat stores if we go without food. That’s the whole point!! My spare tire wasn’t put there for decoration!

  • Jet King

    Possibly. But hundreds of millions of muslims around the world don’t eat or drink during daylight hours for a full month and I haven’t heard of a tremendous uptick of traffic accidents during Ramadan…

  • persephone

    If we’re used to eating every four to six hours, then suddenly fasting will be a shock.