The Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog

Second Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Marriott Outbreak

Over the summer, a deadly outbreak of Legionnaire's disease at the J.W. Marriott in Chicago's South Loop infected at least 10 people. Three people died. Estimates of the number of people exposed are as high as 8,500. Now, a second wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Marriott International and Prime Group, Inc., the group that managed the hotel.

The bacterial infection 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 percent and 30 percent.

The source of the outbreak was traced to a fountain in the hotel lobby, which was subsequently drained.

The family of a Florida man, who visited the hotel in early August, and died on August 14th, filed the first wrongful death action back in September. The lawsuit claimed that the hotel failed to properly maintain the fountain and failed to keep people from walking near the fountain when they should have known about the bacteria, reports NBC Chicago.

Thursday, relatives of Thomas Keane filed a second lawsuit, reports the Chicago Tribune. Keane, of Limerick, Ireland, was celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife by visiting his son, who worked at the hotel.

The allegations in both lawsuits seem to be proceeding on negligence theories. In order to prevail, they will have to show that the hotel's conduct fell below that of the reasonable hotel. For example, they might show that the fountain was cleaned or inspected less often than other hotels. If the parties can show a violation of state or federal safety standards, they might even be able to show negligence per se (by law), which would almost assure a positive outcome to the lawsuit.

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