Legionnaires’ Disease

Important Information about Legionnaires’ Disease

Our Legionnaires’s disease lawyers have collected millions of dollars on behalf of individuals and the families of people killed by this severe form of pneumonia, caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. These bacteria survive and multiply if building water systems are improperly designed or if they are not cleaned and sanitized as required by law and appropriate safety standards.
Legionella Bacteria
Our law firm is one of the few in the country that helps clients win cases against hotels, hospitals, office building and warehouse owners, landlords and others. You can contact our law firm at 1-888-377-8900 for information about a lawsuit. Attorneys Fred Pritzker, Eric Hageman and Brendan Flaherty are our lead lawyers for these cases. You can ask for them by name.

6 Steps for Evaluating a Legionnaires’ Disease Claim

Below is the process we follow in evaluating LD claims.2

1.      Confirm the pneumonia diagnosis

The first step involves confirmation that the patient has pneumonia. This diagnosis is usually made on the basis of radiographic evidence (chest x-rays and/or CT scans) along with blood work demonstrating the presence of infection.

2.      Confirm the presence of Legionella bacteria

Legionaires Disease OutbreakBecause LD is a form of pneumonia, and pneumonia is caused by bacteria, doctors need to identify which type of bacteria is present in the patient’s body.  This is accomplished by laboratory testing of the patient’s urine, blood, respiratory secretions, lung tissue, pleural fluid, or other normally sterile fluid. If Legionella organisms are identified, then and only then, are physicians able to diagnose LD.

The most commonly used laboratory test for diagnosis is the urinary antigen test, which detects a part of the bacteria in urine. If the patient has pneumonia and the test is positive, then the patient is considered to have Legionnaires’ disease. Please note that the urinary antigen test only determines if the person was sickened by L. pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1).

If the Legionella bacteria are cultured (isolated and grown on special media) from sputum (phlegm), a lung biopsy specimen, or various other sites, the diagnosis is also considered confirmed.

Paired sera (blood specimens) that show a four-fold increase in antibody levels when drawn shortly after illness and several weeks following recovery, can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.

3.      Identify possible sources of illness

Fred Pritzker Law Firm

Attorney Fred Pritzker can be contacted for a free consultation at 1-888-377-8900.

Once we know what you have (LD), the next step is to identify where you were exposed to the bacteria. This involves figuring out where you were immediately prior to the 2-18 day incubation period. That’s because, as discussed above, we know it takes that long to develop symptoms after exposure.

When there is an exposure, it usually (but not always) affects more than one person. Thus, we need to find out if your case is part of an outbreak, which occurs when two or more people become ill in the same place at about the same time.

If, in addition to you, there are other people sickened with LD who were at the same place you were prior to the 2-18 day incubation period, that’s usually strong evidence of an outbreak of which you were likely a part.

A person who is part of an outbreak is considered a “case patient.”

Typical outbreaks involve three types of case patients: confirmed cases, suspect cases and Pontiac Fever cases. The following definitions are from a 2012 outbreak at a Chicago hotel in which a client sustained serious injury:

Confirmed Case: A person who stayed at or visited the hotel with onset of illness between two and fourteen days of exposure to the hotel, AND with radiographically- or autopsy- confirmed pneumonia AND with laboratory evidence* of Legionella infection, which includes at least one of the following:

  • Isolation through culture of any Legionella organism from respiratory secretions, lung tissue, pleural fluid, or other normally sterile fluid;
  • Detection of L. pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1) antigen in urine
    Seroconversion, specifically a four-fold or greater rise in specific antibody titer to Lp1 between acute and convalescent titers;
  • Detection of Lp1 by molucular testing (e.g. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)) in repiratory secretions.

Suspect LD Case: A person who stayed at or visited the hotel with onset of illness between two and fourteen days of exposure to the hotel who had pneumonia confirmed by radiographic report or by clinical diagnosis but without laboratory confirmation of infection.

It is also possible to bring a claim in the absence of an outbreak if there is strong evidence that exposure occurred at a particular location and other possible sources can be ruled out. For example, our law firm represented the family of a woman who died from LD. There were no other cases at the same time and in the same general area. However, it was beyond question that during the majority of the time immediately prior to and during the person’s incubation period, she was in a local hospital. Further analysis of water features in the hospital showed the presence of Legionella bacteria. This allowed us to successfully resolve the case on behalf of the decedent’s family.

4.      Review the results of the Epidemiologic Investigation

Isolation of Legionella bacteria from the patient’s body requires doctors and hospitals to report that finding to the applicable local or state health department. The health department is then supposed to conduct an investigation to determine the cause and scope of the event (unfortunately, this does not always happen).

Part of this process is an epidemiologic investigation. This involves generating hypotheses about possible sources of exposure and then questioning people who may have been exposed to or sickened by that source. Statistical analysis of the data generated by the answers to the question helps to identify the characteristics of the outbreak patients and, importantly, the specific source of the bacteria (e.g. a particular fountain within a hotel).

5.      Review the results of Environmental Investigation

Once the likely source of the bacteria has been identified, investigators take samples of water from the feature or system and test it for the presence of the bacteria.

Investigators also examine the records the facility is supposed to keep regarding maintenance, water quality, cleaning and disinfection. Oftentimes, the environmental investigation reveals a lack of appropriate cleaning and disinfection which resulted in failure to eradicate the bacteria. A finding of Legionella bacteria in the sampled water system or feature and identification that preventive measures were not taken or performed incorrectly, is convincing proof that the owner of the facility was at fault.

6.      Review the results of the Laboratory investigation

It is preferable (but not always possible) to isolate and compare portions of genes from Legionella bacteria to see if they match. A genetic match obtained from case patients and from suspected water sources ties all of the outbreak patients to that common source and confirms the existence of an outbreak. In lay terms, this means that the bacteria found in patients and the water source to which they were exposed share the same genetic fingerprint – proof positive that it came from the same source. The technical term for this process is “sequence-based epidemiological typing of L. pneumophila.”

Every case and every outbreak is different. It’s not always possible (or even necessary) to obtain all of the data mentioned above to successfully resolve a case on behalf of a person harmed or killed by LD. It is important, however, that you consult a lawyer with experience and a reputation for success in handling LD cases.

Author: Attorney Fred Pritzker represents clients with personal injury and wrongful death claims nationwide. He has won millions for his clients, including a recent $3,000,000.00 settlement for Legionnaire’s Disease from a Hotel. You can call 1-888-377-8900 (toll free) or use our free consultation form to contact Fred for your free consultation regarding a Legionnaires disease lawsuit. Read client testimonials.

The video below is a good overview.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease (LD) is a severe and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. LD and Pontiac Fever (a less severe infection caused by the same type of bacteria) may also be called “legionellosis.

Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water and may be found in hot tubs, cooling towers, hot water tanks, building plumbing systems, decorative fountains, etc.

People get LD when they breathe in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria. For example, a person in or near a hot tub that was not been properly cleaned and disinfected who breathes in tiny droplets of water in the air may become infected.

The time period from exposure to the bacteria to the onset of symptoms is usually 2-14 days. This is called the “incubation period” – the time it takes for the bacteria to invade the lungs and produce symptoms of illness that may include cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headaches.

Many people, but especially those older than 50, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease and people with a weak immune system, require hospitalization. 5-30% of LD patients die. Children, including newborn infants, can contract LD.1

Given the often serious harms and losses resulting from LD, it’s no wonder that people seek out our law firm to determine if they have a case.

Legionella Pneumonia Complications

Legionnaires’ disease, also referred to as Legionella pneumonia has several life-threatening complications, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Respiratory failure. Once a patient develops respiratory failure, the odds of recovering are extremely low. This happens when there is significant damage to the respiratory system, including mechanical changes in the lungs and oxygen loss in the arteries.
  • Septic shock. This happens when sepsis (infection travels throughout the body in the blood) progresses to multiple organ failure. It is often fatal.
  • Acute kidney failure. When sepsis affects the kidneys, they lose their ability to eliminate excess fluid and waste from the blood. This results in dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in the body, which can lead to death.
  • Endocarditis. This is an infection of the endocardium, an inner lining of the heart. This can happen when the pneumonia becomes septic.  Endocarditis can damage heart valves.
  • Pericarditis. This is a swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the membrane around your heart.  Again, this can be a result of sepsis. Pericarditis can cause long-term illness.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This is a disease that affects the nervous system and can cause temporary, or in rare cases permanent, paralysis. According to one study,3 this complication may be underdiagnosed.

Outbreak Information

Lawsuit Filed against Citrus Systems

Attorneys Brendan Flaherty and Ryan Osterholm filed a lawsuit on behalf of our client who contracted LD in August of 2016. A separate claim for his wife for loss of consortium was part of the suit.

LD Linked to Hopkins, Minnesota

  • There are currently 20 confirmed cases with exposure in the Hopkins area that are part of this outbreak, and we expect this number to grow.
  • One person has tragically died. Our thoughts are with the family.
  • Ages range from 20s to 90s.
  • Most were hospitalized and most still are hospitalized.

Lockheed Martin Employees

Officials at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Marietta, Georgia have officially announced that 4 of their employees have been diagnosed over the course of the last twelve months.

2 UW Medical Center Patients Diagnosed

Two patients admitted to the cardiac unit at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) in late August were diagnosed, according to officials at Public Health – Seattle & King County (1).

Flint, MI McLaren Medical Center

Less than one week after McLaren Regional Medical Center officials announced that they had detected potentially fatal bacteria in their water system as far back as 2014, the first lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four victims who were patients at the hospital, including a 2-year-old child.

Del Tura Golf & Country Club in Fort Myers, FL

At least two people living at Del Tura Golf & Country Club, a 55+ senior community in Fort Myers, Florida contracted this form of pneumonia.

Hannibal Best Western

Three cases have been associated with staying at the Best Western motel in Hannibal, Missouri. According to health officials, Hannibal’s Best Western on the River was the common link in the three confirmed LD cases, all of whom stayed at the hotel at different points over the last eight months.

52 Cases Linked to Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy

There are now 52 people sickened in an outbreak linked to contaminated water at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Of those, 8 did not survive the severe pneumonia that is characteristic of the illness. Seven of the people who died were residents of the Veterans Home, and one was a resident of Quincy.

Opera House Hotel in Bronx – New York City

The Opera House Hotel cooling tower is the source of the outbreak in the Bronx, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Over 120 people have been sickened, and 12 of them have not survived. This is an outbreak of tragic proportions, and the investigation is looking at whether inadequate maintenance and inadequate levels of biocide may have contributed. Find out if you have a lawsuit against the Opera House Hotel.

Marriott SpringHill Suites Hotel in Altamonte, Florida

The Florida Department of Health and the CDC have associated an outbreak of LD with the Marriott SpringHill Suites Hotel in Altamonte Springs, Florida. All guests who stayed at the hotel between March 25 and April 24, 2015, were sent letters regarding this outbreak. The hotel is now considered safe for guests.

Super 8 Motel in Lacey, Washington

An outbreak has been associated with the Super 8 motel in Lacey, Washington, according to Thurston County health officials. The county reported the outbreak on July 2, 2015, stating there were 2 confirmed cases. The outbreak has now grown to 3 confirmed cases and one suspected case.

Co-Op City, Bronx

The New York City Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of illnesses at Co-Op City, an apartment city in the Bronx owned by RiverBay Corporation.  Cooling towers may be the source of the outbreak. You can sue a landlord for compensation.

Econo Lodge in Ocean City, MD

2 people stayed at Econo Lodge, 145th Street, Ocean City, Maryland, prior to onset of illness. Microbiological evidence points to bacteria in the motel’s water system as the source of the outbreak, according to Worcester County health officials. “With two people sickened, this is considered an outbreak,” said Fred Pritzker.

Too Many Cases Go Undiagnosed

Some cases of LD go undiagnosed because every case of severe pneumonia is not tested.  We would like to see a stronger recommendation from the CDC that all cases of pneumonia from an unknown source be tested for detection of legionellosis. In addition, both a urinary antigen test AND a culture of respiratory secretion should be done.

Pneumonia from Apartment Water?

One person who lives at the Hanover Square Apartments in Otterbein (a neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland) was diagnosed in July, according to health officials.

Lawsuit against Sleep Inn Owner

Two men who claim they developed the illness have filed a lawsuit against Choice Hotels International, Inc., doing business as Sleep Inn & Suites in Millbrook. The men got sick after staying at the Millbrook Sleep Inn & Suites.  The lawsuit alleges that contaminated water at the motel caused the illnesses.

Integrated Health Campus

Lawyers have file a lawsuit against Integrated Health Campus and others for illnesses, 2 of which were fatal.  The lawsuit alleges that a contaminated fountain caused the illnesses.

Oak Forest Health Rehabilitation in Forsyth County, NC

Fosyth County health officials have confirmed 4 cases linked to Oak Forest Health and Rehabilitation, 5680 Windy Hill Dr, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The facility provides rehabilitation and long-term care.  All of the people sickened in this outbreak live at the facility.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Legionnaires’ Disease?

Yes, you can sue a hospital, including a VA medical center, for LD if the source of the illness was contaminated water at the facility.

Legionnaires’ Disease Risk from Water Birth Pools

There have been cases of a baby contracting this dangerous form of pneumonia from water birth pools used during delivery.

Legionnaires’ Disease Lawyer

Fred Pritzker and his team of Legionnaires’ disease lawyers help clients get compensation. We have represented clients in several states, and we are not paid unless you win.

Contact our law firm about a lawsuit. If your husband, wife, parent or other family member died, your family may have a wrongful death claim and have the right to sue for compensation and justice. We are on the current U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Law Firms.”


  1. Leruste, A., et al. “Successful pediatric ECMO in a rare case of septic shock due to a community-acquired Legionella infection.” Médecine et Maladies Infectieuses (2016).
  2. Attorney Fred Pritzker wrote the section explaining 6 steps to evaluating a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
  3. Landau, Daniel, et al. “Guillain-Barre Syndrome After Legionella Pneumonia: Case Report and Literature Review (P1. 308).” Neurology 86.16 Supplement (2016): P1-308.

Our law firm has won cases against large companies doing business in multiple states: Alabama AL, Arizona AZ, Los Angeles, California CA, Colorado CO, Connecticut CT, Delaware DE, Florida FL, Georgia GA, Iowa IA, Illinois IL, Indiana IN, Kansas KS, Louisiana LA, Massachusetts MA, Maryland MD, Maine ME, Michigan MI, Minnesota MN, North Carolina NC, North Dakota ND, Nebraska NE, New Hampshire NH, New Jersey NJ, New York NY, Ohio OH, Oklahoma OK, Oregon OR, Pennsylvania PA, Rhode Island RI, South Carolina SC, South Dakota SD, Tennessee TN, Texas TX, Utah UT, Virginia VA, Washington WA, West Virginia WV, Wyoming WY.