Legionnaires' Disease Lawsuit in California
Legionnaires' Disease, caused by bacteria, is a severe form of pneumonia that can cause illness and death. In August 2022, an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease in Napa Valley, California, left one person dead and 11 hospitalized. Two months earlier, a couple visiting San Jose was hospitalized for several days after contracting the disease at a spa.
Legionella is a bacteria that is naturally found in freshwater and man-made sources. Legionnaires' disease is a lung infection developing from exposure to the Legionella bacteria. The first recorded outbreak was at the American Legion convention in Philadelphia in 1976.
Exposure occurs when someone inhales water vapors from improperly maintained building systems. Notably, the most common sources of bacterial overgrowth are ventilation and cooling systems, water faucets, water fountains, shower heads, spas and pools, and medical respiratory devices.
Epidemiologists have stated that some of the reasons for the increase in cases could be due to an aging population, increased testing, or perhaps climate change causing rising rainfalls and humidity.
Transmissions most often occur through inhaling tiny droplets of water infected with Legionella bacteria. Exposure to Legionella does not guarantee illness, and certain groups are more susceptible to contracting it. Smokers over 50 and those with weakened immune systems or other preexisting conditions are the most likely to contract the disease.
If you've contracted Legionnaires' Disease, you may be able to file suit to claim damages. Even a brief hospital stay can cost thousands of dollars, and you should not be stuck with bills due to others' negligence. If you've sustained a permanent injury or a loved one died, you deserve the maximum compensation for your loss.
To file a lawsuit to recover damages, you must show an injury and establish a relationship between that injury and the responsible parties.
What Are the Symptoms and Injuries?
Legionnaires' disease is a severe case of pneumonia. Symptoms could include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, headaches, and nausea. Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should see their doctor immediately. In some severe cases, the disease could be fatal.
Symptoms from Legionnaires' disease usually begin 2-14 days after exposure to the bacteria. Pneumonia is diagnosed by a medical professional based on clinical symptoms, an examination, and a chest X-ray or CT scan. Additional testing must be performed to confirm whether the pneumonia was caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria.
Testing will be a urine antigen test, a blood test, a sputum sample (culture), or a combination. A urine test is the most commonly used test for Legionnaires' disease.
According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 10 people contracting Legionnaires will die. About 1 in 4 will die if they get Legionnaires' disease in a healthcare facility. The condition can cause the following:
- Failure of the respiratory or lungs;
- Kidney failure,
- Heart-related infections,
- Permanent organ damage.
As noted, those at the highest risk include smokers, the elderly, people suffering from chronic illnesses, or those with compromised immune systems.
How Can You Show the Impact of the Disease?
That you contracted Legionnaires' Disease is insufficient to file a lawsuit. Neither is simply feeling under the weather for a few days. You need to show that the disease negatively impacted you. Ways you can show injury include the following:
- Hospitalization due to Legionnaires' Disease;
- Missed work;
- An economic loss;
- Long-term health implications, such as permanent respiratory issues;
- Death due to Legionnaires' Disease;
- Other medical treatment.
Health and economic losses are the most common bases for lawsuits. Your goal is to show that Legionnaires' Disease caused or was the primary reason for your loss or losses.
How Can You Prove Who is the Responsible Party?
You next want to demonstrate a link between your illness and the responsible party. This may be a hotel or spa, but it can also be a pool equipment manufacturer. You may sue multiple parties if you believe they all contributed to the conditions that allowed Legionella bacteria to flourish.
You must show that a hotel did not maintain proper cleaning standards or that a manufacturer's defect allowed bacteria to spread. You will want to compile evidence that shows how each party is responsible and link their actions - or non-actions - to your contacting the disease.
For example, you contract Legionnaires' Disease in a hot tub at a hotel in San Diego. You find out that the hotel was not practicing industry standards for maintaining and cleaning hot tubs.
You also learn that the manufacturer knew of a defect that could allow bacteria to grow in the hot tub, and the company did nothing. In this case, you can likely file suit against the hotel and the manufacturer.
If, on the other hand, no manufacturing defect was found in the hot tub, but evidence exists that the hotel did not follow local health and safety codes, you could likely file against the hotel.
What is the Value of Your Case?
The value of your case will depend on many different factors, including the following:
- level of medical complications;
- medical expenses;
- amount of lost wages;
- your occupation.
Compensation for associated medical costs and lost wages will always vary based on past losses and future estimates.
A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed if your loved one contracted Legionnaires' disease and died. Notably, you have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
You could recover economic and non-economic damages, funeral expenses, and burial costs. The case's value will depend on their age, health habits, contribution to the household, loss of companionship, etc.
What Are the Defenses Against Your Suit?
You must prepare for the defendants, such as the hotel or manufacturer, to file a motion to dismiss the suit. They are likely to argue that there is no clear link between your illness and their actions.
For example, you planned a three-week trip around the state of California. You stayed at ten hotels and two vacation rentals. You also visited a spa during your final week. Legionnaires' Disease has an incubation period of up to two weeks, and you come down with the illness two days after arriving home.
While the places you stayed during the first half of the trip would be outside the incubation period, any place you visited during the last twelve days would potentially be liable. Most defendants would say you cannot clearly link the illness and their business.
This is where evidence of additional sick people or a poor maintenance history can help you build your case. County health departments and the CDC both monitor for Legionnaires' Disease outbreaks.
What Do You Need Experienced Legal Assistance?
You may be entitled to compensation if you contracted Legionnaires' disease due to someone else's negligence. Legionnaires' disease lawsuits are personal injury claims.
In California, this means that you have two years from the date of your injury, or the date you discovered your injury, to file a lawsuit.
If you contracted Legionnaires' Disease, you may choose to file suit against the responsible property or other parties. In many cases, Legionnaires' Disease could have been prevented with proper maintenance and manufacturing codes.
We can help you get reports from local health departments and governmental agencies, oversee an environmental investigation, evaluate your case worth, and get only court or business documents accessible with a subpoena.
If necessary, we can arrange expert and witness testimony. You can contact us for a free case evaluation by phone or via the contact form. Injury Justice Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.