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GASTONIA, NC (AP) — The first lawsuits seeking to establish liability for a fatal outbreak of E. coli bacteria at the Cleveland County Fair are in the courts.

The families of 5-year-old Hannah Roberts of Gastonia and 18-month-old Isaac Dover of Cherokee County, S.C., are suing the event’s operator. The civil complaint was filed this week in Gaston County.

The lawsuit states that both children became ill a few days after attending the fair last month and developed a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause kidney failure.

The fair’s lawyers had no comment.

North Carolina health officials said a petting zoo was the center of the E.coli outbreak, and rainy weather helped spread the bacteria to areas away from the animals.

More than 100 people became sick and a 2-year-old from Gastonia died.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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