Last month, one of the victims of a 2011 outbreak of Legionnaires' disease sued the Ocean City, Maryland hotel where he contracted the illness, claiming that the establishment had negligently maintained its water system.
Six hotel guests became ill during the summer 2011 outbreak, one of whom later died from the disease. The others suffered extensive personal injury.
Legionnaires' disease is a sometimes-fatal lung infection caused by waterborne bacteria. It manifests in a manner very similar to pneumonia. Victims may develop a cough, fever, chills or muscle aches in addition to lung congestion and breathing difficulties.
Legionnaires' disease can be treated with antibiotics if it is detected early. However, between 5 percent and 30 percent of individuals who contract the disease will ultimately die from the condition.
The infection is contracted through the inhalation of water vapor contaminated with the bacteria. Common sources of contamination include air conditioning units, hot tubs and showers. Outbreaks have been known to occur in hotels, hospitals, cruise ships and other venues where large numbers of people congregate.
In many cases, outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease can be prevented through proper cleaning and maintenance.
Suit Alleges Hotel Negligence
In the Ocean City case, the victim alleges that the hotel did not exercise reasonable care in inspecting, maintaining and cleaning its water faucets, showers, pool, hot tub and spa. A laboratory test determined that legionella bacteria were present in the hotel's water system.
As a result of his infection, the victim was hospitalized for several weeks. He had to be intubated for six weeks and experienced septic shock, kidney failure and respiratory failure. He is seeking $6 million in damages.
Source: The Dispatch, "$6M Legionnaires' Suit Filed Against Hotel," Shawn J. Soper, May 4, 2012.