| Read Time: 5 minutes | Legionnaires’ Disease
filing legionnaires disease lawsuit

Did you or a loved one contract Legionnaires’ disease? You may be dealing with medical costs, lost wages, or even permanent disabilities. Or maybe you lost your loved one to the disease.

If so, you may be eligible for compensation for your pain and suffering. Today we are going to take a look at Legionnaires’ disease lawsuits.

What Is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionella is a bacteria naturally found in freshwater and man-made sources.

Legionnaires’ disease is a lung infection that develops from exposure to the Legionella bacteria. The name comes from the first recorded outbreak in 1976 at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia.

Exposure happens when people inhale water vapors from improperly maintained building systems. Common sources of bacterial overgrowth are ventilation and cooling systems, water fountains, spas, and pools, showerheads, faucets, misters, and medical respiratory devices.

Epidemiologists state that reported incidences of the diseases are increasing. The cause could be an increasingly aging population, increased awareness leading to more testing, or even climate change that has been increasing humidity, temperatures, and rainfall amounts.

Health experts say that Covid-19 has also led to higher instances of Legionella outbreaks. Someone previously infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 might be more susceptible to Legionella infection.

There was an uptick in cases once quarantine restrictions were lifted because building shutdowns during warmer weather left warm water stagnant in building water systems, allowing the bacteria to multiply in greater numbers and spread the disease if the system was not properly flushed.

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia. Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches, headaches, and nausea. Someone experiencing these symptoms should see their doctor immediately as the disease could be fatal.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 10 individuals who contract Legionnaires’ disease will die. For those who get Legionnaires’ disease during a stay in a healthcare facility, about 1 in 4 will die.

The disease can cause a failure of the respiratory system or lungs, sepsis, kidney failure, heart-related infections, permanent organ damage. People at the highest risk include smokers, the elderly, those suffering chronic illnesses, or those who have compromised immune systems.

How is Legionnaires’ Disease Diagnosed?

Symptoms from Legionnaires’ disease usually begin 2-14 days after being exposed to the bacteria. Pneumonia is diagnosed by a medical provider based upon clinical symptoms, an examination, and a chest x-ray or CT scan. In order to confirm whether the pneumonia was caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria, additional testing must be performed.

Testing will be a urine antigen test, a blood test or a sputum sample (culture), or a combination of these tests. A urine test is the most commonly used test for Legionnaires’ disease, but it only detects L. pneumophila serogroup 1, which accounts for up to 84% of cases.

Since it does not test for the other Legionella species or serogroups, this means that a patient who tests negative could still have Legionnaires’ disease. If a blood test is performed, two blood draws are required, the first during the acute phase (while the patient is sick with the symptoms), and the second in the convalescent phase (3-6 weeks later).

A positive diagnosis based upon the blood test is only made based on a four-fold increase in titers from the first test to the second. A culture is the most reliable test and detects all species and serogroups of Legionella bacteria.  It can be collected (phlegm) or a washing from the lung (Bronchoalveolar Lavage or BAL). 

What Are My Legal Options If I or My Loved One Contracted Legionnaires’ Disease?

If you contracted Legionnaires’ disease due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. 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. For this reason, it is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after you are diagnosed.

The value of your case depends on many factors, including but not limited to:

  • Your age;
  • Your occupation;
  • The extent of your medical complications;
  • The amount of wages you lost due to your illness; and
  • Your medical costs.

Compensation for associated medical costs and lost wages depends on past losses and future estimates.

A wrongful death lawsuit is appropriate if your loved one contracted Legionnaires’ disease and died. You have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.

For a wrongful death claim, you could recover both economic and non-economic damages, as well as funeral expenses and burial costs. The value of the case depends on the person’s age, health habits, contribution to the household, as well as your loss of companionship, and many other factors.

Trials are time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, most personal injury and wrongful death claims settle out of court. For this reason, you probably will not find much information about the types of damages awarded for Legionnaires’ disease lawsuits. The outcome of these actions depends entirely upon the circumstances.

How Do I Succeed in a Legionnaires’ Disease Lawsuit?

Every property owner owes a legal duty to take reasonable care of their property. Therefore, if they don’t fulfill this duty they are responsible for any injuries caused by their negligence.

In order to prove a Legionnaires’ disease lawsuit, your attorney needs to show that the person or company you are suing was negligent in maintaining their property. To do that, they must show evidence that:

  • You have a confirmed diagnosis of Legionnaires’ disease;
  • You contracted the disease from the location that you are suing;
  • The company did not properly maintain their water sources; and
  • Your damages come from the disease, which you contracted because of their negligence.

Some common theories of negligence in Legionnaires’ disease lawsuits include that the entity responsible:

  • Failed to maintain the water distributions systems;
  • Failed to set and maintain hot water temperatures;
  • Failed to properly chlorinate;
  • Failed to flush their systems as required; or
  • Failed to maintain proper water flow.

There might be more than one liable party to sue. Anyone who rents, leases, possesses, or works on the property might be liable, depending on their responsibilities. Liable parties could include building owners and managers, general contractors, plumbers, maintenance companies, etc.

Your attorney will take care of all of the legal footwork. Your primary concern should be maintaining your medical records because you need to prove your condition. Keep track of all medical bills and other costs, as well as any X-rays, scans, or other evidence.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Legionnaires’ Disease Lawsuit?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Your lawyer knows exactly what needs to be done to put together a successful case for you. Some of their checklists might include:

  • Obtaining reports from local health departments and governmental agencies;
  • Overseeing an environmental investigation on the defendant;
  • Evaluating your case worth;
  • Obtaining court documents or business documents from the company that are only accessible via a subpoena; and
  • Setting up expert and witness testimony.

You’ve got enough to think about, and you will sell yourself short if you try to pursue your claim without the proper legal experience.

Contact Riley Ersoff for Your Legionnaires’ Disease Lawsuit

Riley Ersoff partner and attorney Victoria L. Ersoff has handled over 2,000 Legionnaires’ claims across the United States. Victoria’s detailed knowledge of the cause and effect of Legionnaires’ disease and her experience in successfully litigating these extremely complex cases is unmatched. 

Victoria and our experienced team of litigators are dedicated to helping victims who sustained harm due to someone’s negligence. We handle every aspect of your case and fight to get you every dollar possible for your damages.

Because we focus exclusively on these types of cases, we have vast experience and knowledge in our field. To date, our team has recovered over $85 million in damages for our clients. Please visit our website to view some of our results.

Contact us today to set up a consultation for your Legionnaires’ disease lawsuit. We look forward to serving you!

Author Photo

Victoria L. Ersoff

Victoria Ersoff is a litigation attorney with over 28 years’ experience on both sides of the courtroom, having represented both defendants and plaintiffs alike. Victoria’s proactive, innovative and aggressive approach to the practice of law has yielded an unbroken string of jury verdicts for her clients. She is nationally known for her expertise in all facets of toxic tort litigation and mass bacterial outbreaks including her handling of over 1,000 Legionnaires’ disease claims nationwide. Victoria is nationally known as the “go to” Legionnaires’ disease attorney. She has handled cases across the country including all facets of toxic tort litigation, catastrophic injuries and wrongful death.

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