Sick with Legionnaires?
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Elliot Olsen is a nationally known Legionnaires lawyer who has regained millions for clients. If you or a family member contracted Legionnaires’ disease in Washington Heights, you might have cause to file a Legionnaires lawsuit. Please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.
Lawyers Elliot Olsen of Minneapolis and Scott Harford of Manhattan filed a Legionnaires lawsuit on behalf of a Manhattan woman who was sickened during last year’s second Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in the Washington Heights neighborhood.
The Legionnaires lawsuit is the first concerning the two Washington Heights outbreaks, which resulted in the deaths of two victims. Additionally, almost 60 people were sickened, and more than 50 of them needed to be hospitalized.
Mr. Harford filed the complaint Thursday Feb. 14 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York. Three defendants were named in the complaint:
- Broadway Housing Communities, Inc.
- Broadway Housing Development Fund Company, Inc.
- Broadway Sugar Hill Housing Development Fund Company, Inc.
Still feeling the effects
According to the complaint, Manhattan resident Vivian Weeks was infected with Legionella bacteria in late September as she was visiting the Church of the Intercession at 550 West 155th Street. Shortly thereafter, in early October, Ms. Weeks developed the following symptoms: shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, body aches, and fever.
On Oct. 5, Ms. Weeks was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital, and during her extended stay there, she was diagnosed with Legionella pneumonia (Legionnaires’ disease).
To this day, months later, she continues to experience complications from her battle with the disease.
Sugar Hill Project pinpointed
In early October, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) started investigating an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease cases in lower Washington Heights – the second outbreak to affect the neighborhood last year. In all, 32 people were sickened in the outbreak, 30 were hospitalized, and one victim died.
The DOHMH’s investigation found that clinical specimens of Legionella from numerous patients matched the strain of Legionella found in the cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project. The building is located at 898 St. Nicholas Avenue, less than a quarter-mile from the Church of the Intercession.
“After a comprehensive investigation, the Health Department has identified the cooling tower at the Sugar Hill Project as the likely source,” said then-acting health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who has since been elevated to commissioner.
The complaint filed on Ms. Weeks’ behalf states that the three defendants “did not warn area residents and visitors of the risk of contracting Legionnaires’ disease by exposure to the building’s cooling tower.”
Sugar Hill Project monitored
The DOHMH had been monitoring the Sugar Hill Project after the first Legionnaires’ disease outbreak last summer, when 27 area residents were sickened, 25 were hospitalized, and one of them died. The DOHMH investigation eventually pinpointed the Sugar Hill Project cooling tower as the “most likely” source for that outbreak.
Health Department officials said at the time that it was the first time that one cooling tower had been linked to two separate outbreaks in the same year.
That promped this remark from NYC City Council member Mark Levine: “DOHMH needs to move immediately to put in place better protocols to prevent this kind of repeat contamination.”
In addition to Legionella pneumonia, Legionnaires’ disease is also known as legionellosis. Whatever the name, the disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection caused by Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila is the scientific name).
Approximately 25,000 Americans are sickened yearly with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and about 2,500 of those victims will die. Only 5,000 cases are reported, however, because of its nonspecific signs and symptoms.
Legionella bacteria are usually contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets (mist or vapor). The bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are primarily found in human-made environments.
Not surprisingly, Legionnaires’ disease is similar to other types of pneumonia, and symptoms can even resemble those of influenza (flu). That’s the primary reason it often goes under-reported.
Early symptoms generally include:
- severe headaches
- muscle pains
- fever (104 degrees or higher) and chills
- suppressed appetite.
After two or three days, symptoms can worsen to include:
- pleuritic chest pain, or pleurisy, which is pain caused by inflamed lungs
- dyspnea, which is shortness of breath
- coughing, which can produce mucus and sometimes blood
- gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, which occur in about one-third of Legionnaires cases
- mental confusion and agitation.
About 10 percent of people who become infected with Legionella will die from the infection.
Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but people who are most susceptible include:
- anyone 50 or older
- smokers, either current or former
- anyone with a compromised immune system
- anyone with a chronic lung disease, or COPD (most commonly, bronchitis or emphysema)
- anyone who has received an organ transplant
- anyone on a specific drug protocol, such as corticosteroids
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people harmed by Legionnaires’ disease. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: