Types of Cases Handled in the Office

Travel-Associated:
The Bed and Breakfast Cases

One of the most critical facts any plaintiff must establish in a Legionnaires’ Disease case is source—where the disease was contracted. The following case is an example of what we call “travel-associated cases.”.

 

Here the clients contracted Legionnaires’ Disease on vacation at the B&B owner’s lake front property. Specifically, three family members inhaled contaminated water coming from a hot tub on the property. Two fell seriously ill and one family member, a mother, died as a result of the disease. This case was particularly tricky as Legionella testing was never completed on the hot tub—the defendant removed the tub before testing could be completed. Luckily, the Department of Health for the county in which the lake house was located sent the owner a “remediation letter,” essentially recognizing the probable presence of Legionella bacteria on the property. While being questioned by Mr. Zacher during a deposition, it became abundantly clear that the owner did not know how to properly maintain his hot tub. And because we could establish that the clients could not have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease from another location, the combination of circumstantial evidence helped us secure for our client’s a sizable settlement

Community-Acquired:
The Cooling Tower Cases

Legionnaires’ Disease can be contracted from common vacation or travel spots. But is can also be contracted from large, commercial properties, like a hotel, that one does not stay in. We call these cases “community-acquired cases,” because the community at-large tends to get infected. The clients in this example case contracted Legionnaires’ Disease from a large, commercial property’s cooling tower.

 

In July and August 2015, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease claimed 12 lives and sickened at least 128 people. The outbreak caused widespread concern and weeks of uncertainty among residents. Thanks to the hard work of epidemiologists and investigators, the source of the outbreak was identified: the cooling tower on the roof of a local hotel. In cooling tower cases, the simple act of walking down the sidewalk exposes victims to contaminated water droplets that fall from the towers above. That’s what happened to our clients. In community-acquired cases like this, there are often clusters of cases. In July of 2015, the city’s Department of Health was made aware of the hundred or so cases of Legionnaires’ Disease in a single area near the hotel. Their investigation made our clients’ cases easier to establish because the source was identified for us by the health department. Having determined that the hotel’s cooling tower was a likely source of the outbreak, investigators turned to clinical results to confirm their suspicions. They compared the bacteria found in the cooling tower with the bacteria found in our clients’ lungs. After several rounds of rigorous testing, they determined that the bacteria samples matched. Based on the overwhelming clinical evidence produced by the health department, the hotel was conclusively determined to be responsible for the July-August 2015 outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease.

Hospital-Associated:
The At-Risk Population Cases

Hospital-associated cases are what they sound like: contaminated water at the hospital causes illness amongst its patients and/or employees. But what makes these cases different from a run-of-the-mill travel-associated case, and why we write about them separately here, is who gets sick. Healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes usually serve the populations with the highest risk of contracting Legionnaires’ Disease: elderly individuals and individuals with prior-existing conditions. The following example case is illustrative.

 

 

In 2017, the client was admitted to a nearby hospital. Shortly after, she developed symptoms consistent with Legionnaires’ Disease such as cough and fatigue, was treated in the ICU, and then discharged. Unfortunately, because physicians misdiagnosed her, she had to be readmitted days later. Arriving in acute respiratory distress, she was tested for, and subsequently diagnosed with, Legionnaires’ Disease. She died July 6, 2017. 

 

The risk of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease due to improperly maintained water systems in hospitals is well-known and foreseeable. Several standards exist for hospitals and medical facilities ensure the safety of their water system, including Medicare’s healthcare management policy. The defendant failed to comply with these policies, which was ultimately the reason for their liability. The bottomline is you should go to a hospital to get better and not to die from water in the hospital.

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Case Studies was last modified: February 19th, 2021 by zacherlaw