West Virginia residents may be aware that an Atlanta area hotel was evacuated on July 15 when guests started getting sick. It was quickly determined that the guests were suffering from an extreme form of pneumonia known as Legionnaire’s disease, and the Georgia Department of Public Health eliminated any remaining doubt when it found Legionella bacteria in water samples collected from the hotel’s cooling tower and an ornamental fountain in its lobby. A 49-year-old woman died after contracting the disease at the hotel, and the GDPH has positively identified at least 13 other cases.
The attorney representing a 67-year-old man who says that he contracted Legionnaire’s disease at the hotel claims that the true number of people exposed to the potentially deadly bacteria could number in the hundreds. He also says that gross negligence is the only way to explain his client’s illness. The man is suing the hotel’s holding company and its general manager, and many legal experts believe his lawsuit will be the first of many.
Legionella bacteria is found in freshwater across the United States. It becomes dangerous when it enters building water systems and collects in places like cooling towers, air conditioning condensers and hot water tanks. The bacteria is inhaled rather than drunk, and those exposed to it develop a range of severe symptoms including fatigue, nausea, fever, chills and persistent coughs. The man who filed the lawsuit against the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel says that he became so sick that he could not even remember his own name.
An outbreak of a deadly disease can be extremely damaging to a hotel or restaurant’s reputation, which is why the premises liability lawsuits such an event inevitably gives rise to are generally settled quickly and quietly. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may be aware that property owners in this situation may be highly motivated to avoid a prolonged and public court case, so they could take a firm line during settlement negotiations to secure the very best offer possible for their clients.
Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Authorities confirm source of Legionnaires’ at Sheraton Atlanta, Helena Oliviero, Aug. 15, 2019