Family: Meatloaf dinner killed parents

By Kevin Conlon, CNN

updated 12:46 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Lawsuit claims tainted meatloaf caused elderly couple’s death
  • Bob Evans Restaurants says suit is “entirely without merit”
  • The case will be heard in federal court in West Virginia early next year

(CNN) — The children of an elderly West Virginia couple who passed away months apart in late 2012 and early 2013 are blaming their deaths on a restaurant chain’s meatloaf.

Mark and Ann Starcher say a tainted meal that their parents shared from a local Bob Evans restaurant in October 2012 made them so “violently ill” that it ultimately led to their deaths, according to a lawsuit they’ve filed against the Ohio-based chain.

According to the complaint, about nine hours after consuming a meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and a roll, Virginia Starcher — who went by “Ginny” — “fell violently ill” shortly before Harold Starcher “also became violently ill but was able to call 911 for ambulance transport for both.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. Stay safe by following these steps outlined by the Food and Drug Administration:The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. Stay safe by following these steps outlined by the Food and Drug Administration:

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Both were told by emergency room staff at Jackson General Hospital in Ripley, West Virginia, that they had suffered from food poisoning “from consuming the tainted meal from Bob Evans.”

The next day, the children allege that their dad — who went by the nickname “Punk” — “suffered a stroke after becoming violently ill from consuming the tainted meal from Bob Evans,” resulting in both parents being moved into a rehabilitation facility.

Neither would return home.

About two months later, Ginny, who served in the West Virginia Legislature in the 1980s, died in hospice care. Punk — who was healthy, active and still operating his business at the time of the Bob Evans meal, according to the suit — deteriorated rapidly thereafter. The next few months of his life would be spent in an intensive care unit before he, too, passed away.

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Mark and Ann Starcher want $ 250,000 for medical expenses from Bob Evans Restaurants, as well as an unspecified amount for the “pain, suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish and the loss of ability to enjoy life” that were caused by their parents’ deaths.

A spokesman for the restaurant chain, which has 600 locations in 19 states, said that while it’s the company’s policy not to comment on pending litigation, “we believe this is an appropriate and important exception to the rule.”

“Bob Evans is committed to serving the safest, highest-quality foods for our guests — that is our responsibility and our priority,” said Scott Taggart, who added that the company “sympathize(s) with this family for the loss of their loved ones.” However, Taggart said that the company had done “a thorough review of the alleged claims in this matter, and quite simply, there is no basis to the allegations contained in the complaint and the suit is entirely without merit.”

The case will be heard in federal court in West Virginia early next year.

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