Lawsuit: Bad meatloaf led to the deaths of former West Virginia lawmaker and her husband

A lawsuit is blaming a restaurant's bad meatloaf for the deaths of a former West Virginia state lawmaker and her husband.

Former Delegate Virginia Starcher's family filed the lawsuit last month against New Albany, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Bob Evans spokeswoman Hinda Mitchell said Friday the chain will vigorously defend itself in the matter.

Starcher and her husband, Harold, ate part of their meatloaf meals from a Bob Evans in Ripley in October 2012. Their takeout dishes included meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, broccoli and a roll, the lawsuit says.

It claims that nine hours later, ambulances took the two to the hospital for food poisoning. Harold Starcher suffered a stroke that day.

"Such actions injured Mr. and Mrs. Starcher emotionally which resulted in lost sleep, disturbance of physical condition, extreme anxiety and rapid deterioration of health with consequential death -- all requiring the attention of qualified medical personnel," the lawsuit states.

Virginia Starcher, who also had pre-existing health problems, died in December 2012. Six years before eating some of the allegedly tainted meal, she suffered a disabling stroke and had a mass in her colon that required blood transfusions.

Her husband had open heart surgery for a heart valve infection in December 2013 and remained hospitalized until that April. He died the next month at 84 years old.

"While we sympathize with this family for the loss of their loved ones, we believe this claim is without merit," Mitchell said in an emailed statement.

The lawsuit says the couple incurred more than $250,000 in medical costs after the allegedly tainted meal. The court filing asks for a trial by jury.

Virginia "Ginny" Starcher, 82, first won her seat in 1986 and won one state House of Delegates re-election in 1988. She represented Jackson County and part of Mason County.

The Charleston Daily Mail first reported the lawsuit.