A DIY chain is being sued over the deaths of three people who contracted Legionnaires' Disease from a hot tub in the showroom of one of its stores.
The product was on display in the Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent branch of JTF Warehouse, a discount chain selling everything from DIY and garden lines to homewares and petcare, and with 13 superstores across the Midlands and north.
Richard Griffin, William Hammersley and Harry Cadman all died in 2012 after catching Legionnaires' disease, and over 20 people in total needed hospital treatment. A Health Protection Agency (HPA) report concluded that the hot tub at JTF Warehouse was the probable source.
Several claims for compensation have since been settled out of court, but now the families of the three men who died and one of the survivors have hired law firm Irwin Mitchell to issue formal court proceedings against JTF.
JTF's insurers have already admitted civil liability on behalf of JTF for causing the outbreak of the lung disease.
Legionella bacteria are usually found in water, and will flourish if the water is warm and contaminated with rust, algae or limescale. Legionnaires' Disease is usually caught by breathing in small droplets of the water.
Representing the victims' families, Amandeep Dhillon of Irwin Mitchell said: "This was a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease caused by problems with a hot tub that was on public display at the JTF premises in Stoke-on Trent.
"There are strict controls designed to reduce the risk of legionella contamination, but sadly all of those who contracted this dreadful condition were badly let down by JTF.
"While we are pleased to have settled the majority of our clients' cases out of court, we have now issued court proceedings to ensure that justice is done for our clients and that they receive the full and fair settlements that they are entitled to.
"Some of the families we represent who lost their relatives after contracting Legionnaires' Disease have been left devastated.
"We want to resolve all of the outstanding cases quickly and fairly, hence we have now issued court proceedings on behalf of our clients."
Criminal charges may also be brought against JTF.
The HPA report questioned "the acceptability of operating spa pools (also known as whirl pools and hot tubs) in public places where the general population has access.
"Spa pools are known to pose a risk of legionella if water systems are not rigorously maintained, properly managed and subject to regular chemical controls.
"Operating spa pools on display in indoor spaces, even if not used for bathing, have been previously shown to be the cause of outbreaks in other countries."