The family of a man who contracted Legionnaires’ disease (legionellosis) in 2007 from a hot tub at the Hampton Inn East Peoria at the Riverboathas initiated a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel, after he died from long-term complications arising from the illness. He contracted Legionnaires’ disease while on holiday with his family. Suffering from lower back pain, he made extensive use of a hot tub mislabeled as a “therapy pool” by the Hampton Inn (because the hotel was not licensed to provide medical care or physical / occupational therapy, this “therapy” label was inappropriate and misleading).

Legionella Pneumonia Outbreak and Legionnellosis Infection
Image of Legionella Bacteria, CDC

Chicago’s Daily Herald reports that, according to the current wrongful death complaint (filed December 22, 2015 in Kane County, IL), the man’s wife alerted management to the fact that the hot tub’s water was inadequately heated. Staff responded that although the hot tub needed to be serviced, it was safe to use.

The man subsequently suffered severe complications from Legionnaires’ disease, including brain damage:

“Dale ingested, consumed by absorption, or was otherwise exposed to the legionella bacteria in the Therapy Tub or the plumbing connected thereto,” reads part of the lawsuit. “Dale’s history of Legionnaires’ disease with cerebral infarction was a significant factor that contributed to his death.” 1

This wrongful death lawsuit is the second legal action taken over this incident. Before he died of complications from Legionnaires’ disease, the man filed suit in Illinois’ Seventh Judicial Circuit Court against Hampton Inn for damages in 2009. At that time, his attorneys argued the hotel failed to comply with Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regulations, which require that spas maintain “free chlorine levels between 2 and 4 parts per million” to prevent “the growth of bacteria such as legionella and biofilms.” As evidence, they presented the results of 7 of 13 inspections performed by the IDPH between February 2005 and April 2008. During three of these inspections, they found zero parts per million of free chlorine in the spa; they ordered the spa closed to the public on 6 occasions.2

According to the Pekin Times’ report of this lawsuit, the complications the man suffered from Legionnaires’ disease included paralysis of the left side of his body, sight loss, the ability to speak and to read, and permanent brain damage. As a result, he was unable to work and lost the landscaping business he had owned for 30 years.

The Long-term Complications of Legionnaires’ Disease

Salmonella Typhi - Typhoid Fever

This case serves as a reminder of just how serious – even fatal – the long-term complications of Legionnaires’ disease (legionellosis) can be. Although victims of the disease may initially survive infection, sometimes they never fully recover the use of their mental and / or physical faculties. The aftermath of Legionnaires’ disease often involves lingering posttraumatic stress disorder, neurologic symptoms (headache, memory loss, concentration problems), and neuromuscular issues (muscle weakness, joint pain, tingling in the extremities). Respiratory issues frequently continue for over 2 years following initial diagnosis and treatment.

Sources:

  1. Hitzeman, Harry. “Suit blames downstate hotel for Gilberts man’s death.” Daily Herald. Web. 3 Jan. 2016.
  2. Harris, Sharon Woods. “Suit filed against EP hotel.” Pekin Daily Times. Web. 15 Mar. 20103 Jan. 2016.