Five guests of the Plim Plaza Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland have filed a complaint against the hotel and its owner, the Harrison Group, for negligence and breach of contract, claiming they contracted Legionnaires’ disease and/or Pontiac Fever during their stay. They are being represented by Philadelphia-based attorney, Jules Zacher.
The plaintiffs, who hail from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, visited the Plim Plaza for vacation between June and September of last year. Within two weeks of their arrival, each person began to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, nausea, headaches, and fever. A number were hospitalized, and tragically, one died from the illness. Now, the plaintiffs and their families are seeking recompense for their pain, suffering, and associated expenses.
“According to the literature, Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia that tends to attack the elderly and immunocompromised,” said Jules Zacher, who has litigated Legionnaires’ disease cases around the nation. “A healthy person could be exposed to legionella and show no symptoms, while a more vulnerable individual could become ill enough to be admitted to intensive care. Legionnaires’ disease can be debilitating and even fatal; one of my clients succumbed to the disease. It is not a trivial matter.”
According to the CDC, 8,000 to 18,000 Americans per year are sickened with Legionnaires’ disease, and 5% to 30% of those cases are fatal. But the disease is not contagious – it’s contracted by breathing in water droplets that contain the bacteria, and people are usually exposed when they come in contact with water vapor or mist from hot tubs, showers, fountains, or other sources of aerosolized water. In this instance, the plaintiffs allege that the Plim Plaza was negligent in the upkeep of its water system, resulting in the growth of legionella in the water, and that they were exposed to the contaminated water through their use of the facility’s water system.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the Plim Plaza closed three days before the end of season after receiving an alert from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that three guests had become ill with Legionnaires’ disease following their stay. Additional news reports in the Sun have since announced that tests of the hotel’s water confirmed the presence of legionella bacteria, the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease. At this point, it is unknown how many people were possibly exposed to the bacteria.
Large commercial buildings are often associated with the bacteria because it occurs naturally in the environment, and older water systems are particularly susceptible to legionella colonization due to the buildup of biofilm, chlorine-resistant organic material that serves as a shield for bacteria, in the pipes.
“Legionnaires’ disease is preventable,” stressed Zacher. “The bacteria are ubiquitous, but not uncontrollable.”
Jules Zacher, Esquire is an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania. He has over 35 years of litigation experience and has represented victims of Legionnaires’ disease around the nation since 2004.
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