Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak: Who’s Liable?

By the time New York City officially declared the end of its Legionnaires’ disease outbreak this month, 12 innocent people had already died.

Others became seriously sick — 128 — numbers that exceeded most serious projections when the outbreak first began back in early July.

Officials are calling it the worst outbreak in the history of New York. Thankfully, it appears to be over.

The state’s health commissioner confirmed on August 20 that there had been no new Legionnaires’ reports since August 3 — more than the disease’s two-week incubation period.

Now it’s time to look back and ask the harder questions: How? and Why?

Experts are pointing the finger at the Opera House Hotel in South Bronx. An investigation revealed that the hotel’s cooling tower was releasing contaminated water mist, spreading Legionnaires’-causing bacteria.

Determining Legal Liability for the New York Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak

Legionnaires’ disease is an unusual and severe form of pneumonia, caused by exposure to harmful Legionella bacteria. The disease spreads through the air, and cooling towers like the one at the Opera House Hotel are common culprits.

Legionella thrive in warm water. Other trouble spots include:

  • Showers
  • Humidifiers
  • Hot water tanks
  • Whirlpool spas
  • Hot tubs
  • Air conditioning units.

Notably, you can find all of those things at most hotels, condos, and apartment complexes.

Legionnaires’ outbreaks like the one in the South Bronx are more common than many people realize. They aren’t always avoidable, but poor maintenance can make an outbreak more likely.

Property owners have a duty under state law to maintain safe conditions for their residents and guests. Those who suffer injury after exposure to harmful bacteria may have a claim to compensation under New York premises liability law.

Maintenance Matters

Investigators will need to inquire more closely to determine whether negligence played a role at the Opera House Hotel.

In the meantime, as premises liability attorneys, we encourage residents and tourists alike to choose apartment complexes and hotels with a reputation for excellent maintenance and inspection standards.

The End of the Outbreak

At last, the outbreak is over! Let’s all take a breath and enjoy what’s left of summer in the city. And let’s hope this latest surge was Legionnaires’ last.