It’s still unclear whether man died from tainted food

A Northwestern Michigan College student who was hospitalized after eating tainted pot pies recently died at his campus apartment. Medical personnel at a Grand Rapids hospital are conducting tests on the body of David Small, 51, after a friend and a college official found him dead inside his college apartment around 6 p.m. Tuesday. The concerned friend went to Small’s apartment building at 1884 E. Front St. to check on him after he missed an Oct. 29 meeting, Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan said Thursday.

"We are currently awaiting toxicology reports to see if there were any medicines or prescriptions that may have been involved here," Morgan said, adding that he expects the test results within the next couple weeks. "The initial investigation didn’t show any signs of foul play or anything suspicious at all."

Small filed a lawsuit last week in circuit court against ConAgra Foods Inc. and Tom’s Food Markets Inc. He said he was infected with salmonella after eating tainted pot pies in September. ConAgra recalled all of its store-brand and Banquet pot pies Oct. 11 after an investigation by the Center of Disease Control linked the pies to recent salmonella outbreaks in several states.

Authorities said Small suffered from health issues and was prescribed several medications. Small was admitted to Munson Medical Center with gastrointestinal problems Sept. 27 and was released two days later after testing positive for salmonella, the lawsuit read.

R. Drew Falkenstein, one of several attorneys of Washington-based firm Marler Clark working with outbreak victims, said Small’s case will move along, despite his death.

"We obviously have to do some investigation to see if there is any relation between his death and the salmonella poisoning,’ Falkenstein said. "We absolutely intend to pursue the claim. His estate still has the right to bring any claims under Michigan law that he was entitled to bring when he was alive."