The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Chicago Legionnaires' Outbreak Causes Four Deaths So Far

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Out of the 8,000 former guests of the J.W. Marriott during the time frame of exposure, there have been nine confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s disease. Out of those, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that two have died. A third death is being reported by the Independent Ireland.

One of the victims was a physician from Florida who was previously believed to have passed away from pneumonia. Another, 66-year-old Tom Keane, was a retired Irishman who was celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife. Keane and his wife were not guests, but were visiting his son who worked at the Chicago hotel.

Last week, we reported that three former guests of the J.W. Marriott in the Loop were diagnosed with the pneumonia-like infection. This led to the Chicago Department of Health tracking the source of the bacteria to the hotel's pool, hot tub, and fountain. The contamination has since been eliminated.

The bacterial infection, known as Legionnaire's Disease, is caused by exposure to water vapor that carries the bacteria. The symptoms, such as headache, fever, chills, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath, mimic those of pneumonia, making diagnosis more difficult. Most people do not become ill upon exposure, but those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, are more vulnerable. The fatality rate is between 5% and 30%.

Should the J.W. Marriott be found to be at fault for the outbreak, the wrongful death damages could be very significant. One of the main components of wrongful death damages is lost wages from expected lifetime earnings. An expert uses an actuary table to determine how long the deceased was expected to live. They also look at the person's income, how long they had until retirement, and other factors and estimate how much money they would have made over the expected remainder of their life.

It's a grisly way of looking at someone's death. However, someone will have to provide for the deceased's family. Especially in single-income households, the damages from a wrongful death lawsuit ideally keep a family from financial ruin and impoverishment.

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