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While a get-together with friends and family for a church function may seem harmless, one person recently lost her life and 23 others are now sick after a potluck lunch. The Ohio investigators claim that the individuals were infected with botulism. The investigation is still underway, but it is possible that a product liability suit could arise.

Botulism is a paralytic illness that comes from a nerve toxin produced by specific types of bacteria, which is sometimes associated with contaminated food. Common symptoms of the illness are difficulty swallowing, blurred vision and slurred speech. Botulism can be seen when certain home-canned foods are not properly canned. Around 145 cases of botulism are reported each year, and only between 5 and 7 percent of those infected die. It may take months to treat individuals with severe cases.

Health officials are working to confirm that the outbreak was in fact botulism, and they are also working to determine what dish at the potluck may have been contaminated. The conditions of the 23 sick individuals are unknown at this time. However, it has been confirmed that one 54-year-old woman lost her life due to the outbreak.

As the investigation into the Ohio botulism outbreak continues, important questions such as which dish was contaminated and who made the dish will hopefully be answered. The investigation may reveal that the company that produced the specific contaminated ingredient may be at fault, or the investigation could indicate that the fault lies with a negligent cook. When these questions are answered, the estate of the woman who lost her life as well as the 23 sick individuals may be able to file wrongful death and personal injury suits against the party or parties believed responsible, citing negligence and/or product liability.

Source: Reuters, “One dead, 23 others sick from suspected botulism at Ohio church“, Mary Wisniewski, April 22, 2015