• 1st lawsuit to be filed against hotel after Legionnaires' outbreak

    By: Nicole Carr

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - A lawsuit has been filed against the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel and its management following an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that happened this summer.

    The suit is filed on behalf of a Metro Atlanta photographer who worked an event in the downtown hotel during the last week of June. The attorneys representing Germany Greer also represent 40 other clients, 13 of whom have confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease, according to attorney L. Chris Stewart.

    [READ: What is Legionnaires' disease? FAQs about the severe form of pneumonia]

    The remaining clients all show symptoms of the disease and are being retested because neither they nor their doctors had initial knowledge of possible contact with the Legionella bacteria. Many of those clients, including an Illinois woman, are in the most vulnerable immune system category because they are 50 years old or older.

    "She has forgotten how to walk," Steward said. "She is in rehab trying to learn how to walk again."

    In Mid-July, Channel 2 Action News broke news of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak. At the time, there were three confirmed lab cases. The case count continued to rise each week.  As of late Monday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Health confirmed one death, 12 lab cases and 64 probable cases of Legionnaires' disease.

    Channel 2's Tom Jones first reported on Cameo Garrett, the woman who died from Legionnaires' disease, shortly after the outbreak. Her cause of death was confirmed by an autopsy weeks later.


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    Garrett attended a function at the hotel where several guests have been diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease.

    In a news conference on Monday morning, Greer told reporters he'd been hospitalized in Piedmont Hospital for four days, suffering loss of memory and mobility loss.

    "I lost 15 1/2 pounds in three days, OK?" Greer said.

    "I could not remember my name," he said, describing other troubles tied to the diagnosis. "My son filled it in (at the hospital), and said ‘This is not my dad.'"

    The timeline of the hotel's knowledge of suspected Legionella bacteria in the water system is at the center of the lawsuit.

    "When did they find out they had a problem?" asked Stewart. "We don't exactly know yet."

    The state health department initially said the first unconfirmed disease case was reported to them five days before the Legionnaires' disease confirmation. That was July 10.

    We now know that the confirmed lab results trace diagnoses of hotel guests back to mid-June. Attorney Matt Wetherington pointed out that the Legionella bacteria, not the actual disease, is reportable to the state.

    "Legionnaires' disease is just one of many problems that can come from exposure to Legionella," he said.

    In a statement, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel General Manager Ken Peduzzi said he would not comment on the pending litigation.

    In a separate statement, the hotel gave an update regarding its testing, cleansing procedure and closure:

    "During our closure, we have been working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fulton County Board of Health and environmental experts to conduct testing to ensure there is no threat of Legionella infection.  A thorough cleaning of the hotel's entire water distribution system has been completed as a precautionary measure, including cleaning, scrubbing and chlorination of all water features. At this time, we are awaiting additional testing results and we will complete a review of those results, as will the Georgia Department of Public Health. After final results are known, we will provide another update on both the results and opening date. The Sheraton Atlanta will remain closed until at least August 14th."

    - Ken Peduzzi, General Manager, Sheraton Atlanta
     

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