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Businessman takes legal action after contracting Miller Fisher Syndrome after eating chicken liver parfait

Philip Earlam was left fighting for his life after a meal at an awards ceremony

Posted on 14 June 2018

A senior telecoms executive from Northwich is taking legal action after he contracted Miller Fisher Syndrome, a rare form of food poisoning which left him fighting for his life in intensive care after a meal at the national Digital Impact Awards ceremony dinner in central London in October 2017.
Philip Earlam, 47, contracted Miller Fisher Syndrome after consuming chicken liver parfait at the event at the Brewery venue on Chiswell Street, London. 
Miller Fisher Syndrome causes abnormal muscle coordination, paralysis of the eye muscles, and absence of the tendon reflexes.
The morning after the awards, Mr Earlam returned to his Cheshire home where he continued to suffer from general sickness and diarrhoea. After two weeks off work he began to experience double vision and after seeing his GP he was taken to Leighton Hospital in Crewe.
Within the space of 24 hours, Philip’s condition rapidly deteriorated and he was rushed to the intensive care unit. After a number of days in intensive care, he was transferred by ambulance to a specialized Neurological Ward at Royal Stoke University Hospital. Mr Earlam said:  
“Within the space of 24 hours I’d gone from planning on returning to work to being in intensive care, hooked up to various machines, and with the staff struggling to establish what was wrong with me as my condition deteriorated on an hourly basis.”
As his condition declined Philip lost the use of his limbs, his speech and the ability to blink meaning his eyes were forced wide open making sleeping impossible. 
Mr Earlam said: “It was at this point that I remember trying to communicate to my wife that I didn’t want our son, to see me as I felt like I was turning into a vegetable; I couldn’t move and I could barely see. It was so frightening seeing parts of my body shut down and having no idea why it was happening or what could be done to stop it.”
Mr Earlam was given five doses of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) once every 24 hours in order to stop further neurological impairment. 
After seven weeks in hospital Mr Earlam was discharged. He described his time in hospital:
“I’d often wake up in the middle of the night and, not initially realising where I was, it was dark and I was unable to speak, so I couldn’t ask anyone. It just felt like I was silently slipping away.”
Mr Earlam and other attendees of the awards are now taking legal action against the caterers, Gather & Gather, through Leigh Day solicitors. 
Lawyer Angela Bruno from the consumer team at Leigh Day said:
“Around 500 people attended the event on the 17 October last year and we are aware of a number of individuals that fell ill after consuming the chicken liver parfait. 
“We believe a large number of people may have been affected and would have suffered a range of symptoms. Many attendees may not have been fully aware of the source of their illness and as such the true scale of those affected remains largely unknown.”
Miller Fisher Syndrome is a disease that can take years to recover from, with some sufferers never fully recovering, and for just under eight percent of those affected the condition proves fatal.
Following the incident Public Health England conducted a formal investigation. They reported that campylobacter bacterium was present in the chicken liver parfait element of a starter dish containing pigeon breast, beetroot, chicken liver parfait and a hazelnut dressing. 
Ms Bruno continued:
“What happened in this case was an extreme case of food poisoning and the last five months have been very difficult for Mr Earlam, his family, and his friends.  We remain hopeful that his health continues to improve and that in time he is able to make a full recovery and move on from what should have been an evening of celebration, but which turned into months of illness, suffering and continued rehabilitation."
Lawyers from Leigh Day are also investigating another outbreak of the campylobacter bacterium from an event the previous month, which was also held at the Brewery venue and catered for by Gather & Gather. 
The event took place on the 29 September, 2017 and following an investigation by Public Health England it is believed that a number of attendees fell ill after eating the same starter containing chicken liver parfait served at the Digital Impact Awards the following month.  
If you attended either event at Brewery; the Digital Impact Awards on 17 October 2017, or the earlier event on the 29 September 2017, Leigh Day would like to hear from you. Please telephone us on our dedicated free phone number: 0800 689 5053.