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The JW Marriott Hotel, a prominent hotel in the Loop in downtown Chicago, is experiencing an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.  Three people are reported sick and, given the 2-10 incubation period, it would not be surprising if more cases emerge in the next couple days, especially since the hotel learned about the problem last week.  This outbreak can remind us of the difficult questions that hotel management must answer during an outbreak.  A major component is the issue of guest notification.

On one hand, hotels need to value the safety and well-being of their clients.  Transparency is key: hotels need to keep guests notified of the risks they may encounter during their stay, and give them an opportunity to make informed decisions regarding their stay.  If necessary, temporary hotel closures do happen when the risk level is elevated.

On the other hand, hoteliers want to avoid invoking panic amongst customers, and certainly do not want to lose clients if there are no significant risks.  They are in business to make money, and do not want to scare guests away if warning is unwarranted.  Hoteliers need to find the middle-ground; they need to find the point where the level of guest notification matches the level of risk.  In simple terms, hotel management should strive to warn guests when they are actually in danger of contracting Legionnaires’ disease and need to be warned in an appropriate way, given the situation.

JW Marriott management has taken steps to notify current and former guests and achieve a level of transparency.  Whether their level of action matches the level of risk to guests remains to be seen.  The next few days will be important indicators of whether the hotel has acted responsibly.


Please visit again for future posts related to this outbreak.

Jules Zacher is an experienced attorney who has worked on Legionnaires’ disease cases throughout the country.  He has litigated several cases involving outbreaks at hotels. 

Posted by jzacher">jzacher at 4:30 pm

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