Dubai Hotel Faces $16.7 Million Legionnaires’ Disease Lawsuit

Travel Daily News reports that the suit claims that Thomas Boyle, from Britain, and Elodie Nogues, from France, contracted Legionnaires’ disease after staying at the Dubai Westin Mina Seyahi in January and February of 2009. The health of the pair deteriorated rapidly and resulted in hospital stays. A third guest, BBC radio commentator Bill Frindall, 69, passed away as a result of contracting the disease.

The legionella bacterion that causes Legionnaires’ (a form of pneumonia) can be found in natural water sources such as lakes and rivers, but also on occasion in man-made water systems such as cooling towers, whirlpool spas, and also in air-conditioning units. People become infected by inhaling water droplets containing the bacterium. Since the disease was first identified in 1976 – at a meeting of retired US military personnel, or legionnaires – outbreaks have been linked to hotels, cruise ships, and other types of holiday accommodation. About 5-15% of cases prove fatal, with elderly people most at risk.

Boyle arrived at the Westin with his family on December, 2008, and left several days later, on January 6, 2009. On his return to the UK, the suit says he developed flu-like symptoms and his health deteriorated rapidly. He then spent a fortnight in a UK hospital having been diagnosed with the disease.

Nogues started to feel weak and feverish two days after checking into the hotel with her son and a friend on February 14. With her health deteriorating, she returned to France on February 21 where she was also diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease.

Frindall, a highly-regarded cricket scorer and broadcaster, returned to the UK on 20 January from a tour to Dubai with his charity cricket team, the Lord’s Taverners. His condition quickly deteriorated and he was not able to recover after one of his lungs collapsed. He passed away in Swindon Hospital on January 30. The team said no other members were showing symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease.

Following these incidents, Amalie Craig, a spokeswoman for Starwood said in a written statement that the company was “continuing to conduct a thorough investigation with independent assessors, including leading European and US based experts, to investigate whether legionella is present in the hotel.” The investigation was being conducted in co-operation with Dubai Municipality and Dubai Health Authorities.

A later statement by Starwood said that “no evidence of legionella has been found to date at the hotel based on initial testing by an independent accredited laboratory and the hotel’s systematic and regular audits,” and continued “although recent monitoring and testing has not revealed the presence of legionella at the property, hotel management is continuing to monitor the situation and has begun contacting guests and associates to advise them of the circumstances. The ongoing monitoring is intended to ensure that the hotel satisfies all requirements regarding the health, safety and welfare of hotel guests and associates.”

According to the lawsuit, both plaintiffs were unable to return to their normal lives having suffered from depression and anxiety. The New York Supreme Court is deciding whether the case can go to trial, a decision that could take up to a year to make.