When a property owner becomes liable for a water-related hazard, it is usually because of a slip-and-fall or drowning accident. In a new wrongful death suit, however, a Florida victim's family members allege that a hotel's negligence led to a fatal Legionnaire's disease outbreak. The disease apparently came from a fountain located in the hotel's main lobby.
The suit is based on a premises liability theory that the hotel's owner and operator is responsible for failing to keep the fountain properly disinfected.
Three people, including one man from the Miami area, contracted Legionnaire's disease and died in early August. All three victims shared one thing in common: they stayed at the same hotel in Chicago shortly before their deaths. Health officials traced the Legionnaire's outbreak to a decorative water fountain in the hotel's lobby.
Legionnaire's disease thrives in relatively warm water. When the water is disturbed or aerated, the bacteria can rise into the air along with water vapors. Once the water is airborne, humans can inhale the bacteria and succumb to the disease. Fountains can sometimes create exactly these conditions by continuously splashing the water surface and throwing droplets into the air.
Property owners have a general duty to maintain a safe environment for guests. The Florida man's family filed a wrongful death suit last week, alleging that the hotel breached this duty by failing to disinfect the fountain to prevent the growth of infectious diseases.
Source: 5 NBC Chicago, "Lawsuit Filed in Legionnaire's Outbreak in Loop Hotel," Sept. 26, 2012