Important Information about Legionnaires’ Disease
If you have Legionnaires’ disease, a lawyer is needed for an independent investigation and lawsuit against the careless building owner whose contaminated water caused your illness. Your case of Legionnaires’ disease was preventable, and you can contact our law firm to help you prove it.
6 Steps a Legionnaires’ Disease Lawyer Uses to Evaluate a Legionnaires’ Disease Claim
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 that is 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. Below is the process we follow in evaluating LD claims.2 It is written by attorney Fred Pritzker.
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.
Once you have a diagnosis, it is time to contact a Legionnaires’ disease lawyer because these illnesses are preventable.
2. Confirm the presence of Legionella bacteria.
Because 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, physicians are 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.
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;
– Detection of Lp1 by molucular testing (e.g. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)) in respiratory 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.
How Can Our Legionnaires’ Disease Lawyers Help You?
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 confidential consultation regarding a Legionnaires disease lawsuit. Read client testimonials.
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 hanging 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. Five to thirty percent 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.
Since September 15, 2018, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has received six reports of people being diagnosed with LD in Champaign County. State health officials are looking at potential sources of the outbreak. One possible source is First Christian Church of Champaign, where some of the people diagnosed with LD participated in wedding activities, according to IDPH.
For the second time in 2018, a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak has sickened people who visited or live in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. As of October 11, 2018, sixteen people have been sickened, one of whom has died. The first Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Washington Heights in July of this year sickened 18 people, according to NYC health officials, who identified the source of that outbreak as a cooling tower operated by the Sugar Hill development.
Fourteen people were hospitalized in a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak in Sioux Falls, SD. One patient has died. The people sickened range in age from 36 to 80 and live in or visited Sioux Falls in the week before getting sick.
A New Hampshire Legionnaires’ disease outbreak investigation is looking at hot tubs at two hotels, the Sands Resort and the Harris Sea Ranch Motel, as potential sources of the legionellosis cases.
An outbreak in New York City, specifically the Washington Heights neighborhood, has sickened 18 people, one of whom died. The people sickened range in age from 40 to 80 years old. The fatality was a person over 50 with underlying health conditions.
Two Legionnaires’ disease cases have been associated with the Four Seasons 55+ community in Palm Springs, California. Both people sickened are residents of Four Seasons. The pool areas at Four Seasons were closed in July of 2018 to allow a private company to test the water for the presence of Legionella bacteria, and the bacteria was found in a pool. Four Seasons drained the pool and deep cleaned it.
Three people working at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, contracted Legionnaires’ disease, campus officials and the Detroit Health Department reported in June of 2018. After an employee was diagnosed in May, the university hired PathCon Laboratories. The company found Legionella in 3 cooling towers and 3 bathrooms in different buildings.
One person died and two others were hospitalized in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Co-op City neighborhood of the Bronx. This is the same neighborhood where an LD outbreak killed 12 people in 2015. City health officials reported in April of 2018 that the cases were people who visited or lived in three connected buildings in the Co-Op City neighborhood within the last 12 months.
A Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at Water Oak Country Club in Lady Lake, FL has sickened two people. Health officials say they traced the source of the outbreak to Legionella bacteria in the water in the hot tub at the clubhouse.
Several people have been diagnosed after being in or near a pool or the spa (hot tub) at IslandWalk at the West Villages in North Port, Florida.
9 People at Disneyland in Anaheim before Diagnosed with Legionnaires’
Twelve people who live or visited Anaheim, California, have been diagnosed with LD. Of the 12, 9 were at Disneyland from September 12 to September 27, 2017, before getting sick, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Can a person sue Disneyland for Legionnaires’ disease?
Five people were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ pneumonia after being at The SpringHill Suites on 2960 Hoppe Trail in Round Rock, Texas. Three of the people were guests; one is an employee.
Two L.A. Fitness locations in Orlando and one in Ocoee have been associated with 7 cases of illness. These people became ill from February through May of 2017.
Three people with who visited the L.A. Fitness in Ocoee, Florida, were diagnosed with LD. The health department found that this location was the common exposure.
Every case of severe pneumonia is not tested to see if it is LD. This means there may be hundreds of people a year who are not diagnosed. Our lawyers 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. We also believe both a urinary antigen test AND a culture of respiratory secretion should be done to make sure there is an accurate diagnosis.
There have been cases of babies contracting this dangerous form of pneumonia from water birth pools used during delivery. You should discuss this issue with your health care professional if you are considering this kind of delivery.
Legionnaires’ Disease Lawyer Fred Pritzker
Fred Pritzker and his team of Legionnaires’ disease lawyers help clients get compensation. 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. We have represented clients in several states, and we are not paid unless you win.
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.” Contact our law firm.
Our law firm has won multimillion-dollar settlements from large corporations doing business in all 50 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
You Can Sue a Hotel or Motel for Legionella Pneumonia
Below are some past outbreaks that were associated with staying at a hotel or motel.
Three cases were associated with staying at the Best Western motel in Hannibal, Missouri, in 2015. 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 a period of eight months.
The Opera House Hotel cooling tower is the source of the outbreak in the Bronx in 2015, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Over 120 people were sickened, and twelve died.
The Florida Department of Health and the CDC associated an outbreak of LD with the Marriott SpringHill Suites Hotel in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The dates of concern were March 25 and April 24, 2015.
Another outbreak in 2015 was associated with the Super 8 motel in Lacey, Washington, according to Thurston County health officials. There were 3 confirmed cases and one suspected case.
In 2014, 2 people who stayed at Econo Lodge, 145th Street, Ocean City, Maryland, were sickened. Microbiological evidence pointed to the motel’s water system as the source of the outbreak, according to Worcester County health officials.
Two men filed a lawsuit in 2014 against Choice Hotels International, Inc., doing business as Sleep Inn & Suites in Millbrook. The lawsuit alleges that contaminated water at the motel caused the illnesses.
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. These are often large, complex buildings, and finding the source of the illnesses can be time consuming. You need experts to help you prove your case. You may also have a medical malpractice case if a doctor failed to diagnose the illness and that failure led to severe illness or death.
Sources and Additional Information
- 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).
- Attorney Fred Pritzker wrote the section explaining 6 steps to evaluating a personal injury or wrongful death claim.
- Landau, Daniel, et al. “Guillain-Barre Syndrome After Legionella Pneumonia: Case Report and Literature Review (P1. 308).” Neurology 86.16 Supplement (2016): P1-308.
- Atlanta Legionnaires’ Disease at Grady Memorial Hospital
- Marriott Legionnaires Disease Lawyers
- Legionnaires’ Disease Risk From Water Birth Pools
- Legionnaires’ Disease Wrongful Death