In an effort to educate our clients and other business contacts we invited Jules Zacher, an attorney specializing in Legionnaires’ disease, to write a brief article for our website. Jules Zacher Esquire has been engaged in the practice of law since 1974. He currently represents victims of Legionnaires’ disease in federal and state courts across the country. Below is the full article written by Jules Zacher…
Legionnaires’ Disease – A Legal Perspective
Legionnaires’ disease is a serious and often fatal form of pneumonia. Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks often result in litigation when patients claim their illnesses were caused by those responsible for maintaining the water systems where they contracted the bacteria. Jules Zacher is an attorney who has litigated numerous Legionnaires’ disease cases around the country. Recently, he represented several plaintiffs in litigation against a hotel and its owners, for both liability and damages arising from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that took place in the fall of 2011.
The Plaintiffs in the case visited the hotel for vacation during the summer and early fall of 2011. Within two weeks of their arrival, and within the incubation period for Legionnaires’ disease, each person began to experience symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. Typical symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, severe coughing, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches, lethargy, and other symptoms associated with pneumonia. A number of the plaintiffs were hospitalized, and tragically, one died from the illness.
Investigations after the outbreak by local health authorities and an independent testing agency revealed positive environmental samples for Legionella at several locations throughout the potable water system including showers and sinks in guest rooms and the domestic hot water holding tank. After the outbreak, remediation took place, including chemical flushing, ongoing testing, and installation of a chlorine dioxide system to disinfect the water on a regular basis.
Overall, the hotel did not provide a safe environment for its guests due to the presence of Legionella in its water system. Hotels–especially those like the Defendant’s which are vacant during the off-season–often have problems with stagnant pipes which can lead to increased bacterial growth. This may have been an issue here. Also, water temperatures throughout the system were not consistently high enough to curb Legionella growth.
Hotels and other large buildings in which people use showers, spas, faucets, and other water outlets can be at risk for outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease. Complex water systems, cooling towers, decorative fountains, and humidifiers can provide ample opportunity for Legionella propagation, and transmission can occur at a high rate when guests are constantly using the water. Fortunately, Legionnaires’ disease is largely preventable. Building owners can install disinfection systems that chemically treat the domestic water in their buildings. They can also be proactive by committing to a regular legionella testing schedule to diagnose whether the building has a legionella problem. Also, water systems can be designed to store water at temperatures that will kill legionella.
The costs associated with various preventative measures are minimal, compared to the financial burden of litigation which can often arise if an outbreak does occur. Responsibility and planning on the part of building owners and maintenance staff could have prevented the outbreak and resulting litigation. Future outbreaks can largely be prevented, lives can be saved, and litigation can be avoided if other hotels and facilities adopt proper preventative steps like good maintenance and regular testing.
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Disclaimer – Below is the disclaimer from Jules Zacher’s website http://www.legionnairelawyer.com/ Bond Water Technologies offers this information for information purposes only. This is not intended to be legal advice from Bond Water Technologies.