Less than one week after McLaren Regional Medical Center officials announced that they had detected potentially fatal Legionella bacteria in their water system as far back as 2014, the first lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four Legionnaires’ Disease victims who were patients at the hospital. Our law firm is not representing these claimants.

Legionella Pneumonia Outbreak and Legionnellosis Infection
Above is an image of Legionella bacteria from the CDC. When someone breathes these in, they can grow in the lungs and cause Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia.

According to WXYZ Detroit, this first lawsuit, filed in Genesee County Circuit Court, seeks $100 million for four individuals who claim to have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease at McLaren Flint Hospital. The lawsuit alleges negligence by both McLaren hospital officials and by Governor Rick Snyder in failing to alert the public to the presence of Legionella at the hospital facility or to control the outbreak.

Between April 2014 (when the City of Flint changed its water source from Lake Huron to local Flint River water) and late 2015, Legionnaires’ Disease cases in Genesee County spiked abruptly. Prior to 2014, the county witnessed from 6 to 13 cases per year. In 2014, this number escalated to 45; in 2015, 42 cases were identified. At least 9 fatalities have been confirmed to date.

The family of one of these fatalities, a 58-year-old woman from Otisville, Michigan, is one of the parties engaged in this initial lawsuit against McLaren Flint hospital and the governor. In August of 2015, her death made the headlines as her family struggled to learn how, admitted to the hospital with a migraine on July 24th, she contracted Legionnaires’ disease and died seven days later. At this point, before Flint’s residents had been alerted to the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and lead poisoning their drinking water posed, Genesee County Health Department officials reported that 23 cases had occurred between October 2014 and August 2015, claiming an “average” county average of 33 cases a year. “We’re running a little higher this year than last year,” affirmed Mark Valacak, director of the Genesee County Health Department.1

Hospital statements have thus far contradicted themselves when addressing the question of whether patients had been exposed to and contracted Legionnaires’ disease during treatment for other conditions after the water system change in April 2014. Although the hospital initially stated that “there is no definitive data to support that McLaren Flint is the source of exposure for any patient testing positive for the Legionella antigen,”2 last week McLaren Regional Medical Center president Don Kooy conceded that *two* cases “could have been related to exposure to Legionella bacteria found in the hospital.”3

However, when Michigan state epidemiologists began investigating the sudden explosion of Legionnaires’ disease cases after April 2014, reviewing survey reports from 16 patients who had been inpatients at McLaren Regional Medical Center, they concluded that “McLaren was more strongly “associated” with the outbreak than any other possible source – including Flint River water.”4

Sources:

  1. Williams, Candice. “Family reeling after mom dies of Legionnaires’ disease.” The Detroit News. Web. 4 Aug. 2015 [date cited: 2 Feb. 2016].
  2. “Steps taken to safeguard water after 2014 test found Legionella bacteria in water at McLaren Flint.” WXYZ Detroit. Web. 22 Jan. 2016 [date cited: 2 Feb. 2016].
  3. “Flint hospital suspected river, Legionnaires’ disease link.” CBS News. Web. 23 Jan. 2016 [date cited: 2 Feb. 2016].
  4. 4. Bouffard, Karen. “Hospital ties Legionnaires’ to Flint water.” The Detroit News. Web. 23 Jan. 2016 [date cited: 2 Feb. 2016].
  5. Can I Sue a Hospital for Legionnaire’s Disease?

Our law firm is not taking these cases.