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Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Sheraton hotel leads to lawsuit

Residents of New York should know that an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel has led to Georgia health officials investigating some 75 cases of infection. Of these, 12 have been confirmed. The outbreak led to the death of one 49-year-old woman as well as a lawsuit from a 67-year-old photographer who covered a conference at the hotel. All of the victims either visited the hotel or stayed there.

On July 15, the hotel evacuated its guests and closed down. After a thorough cleaning, scrubbing and chlorination of the water distribution systems, it reopened on Aug. 15. Representatives of the hotel have extended their sympathy to the victims, but whether the hotel will accept responsibility for the injuries is another matter.

The photographer filing the lawsuit said that shortly after attending the conference, he developed a fever that went up as high as 104.5 degrees. He claims that even after five weeks of being free from the sickness, he is only 65% healthy.

A severe form of pneumonia, Legionnaires' disease causes fever, chills, shortness of breath, nausea and even mental changes. It is caused by the Legionella bacterium, which naturally occurs in freshwater lakes and rivers but can make its way into plumbing systems, fountains, faucets and other man-made water systems.

Those who caught the disease may be able to recover damages because they were ultimately the victims of property owner negligence. To achieve a fair amount in damages, though, they may need a lawyer who is experienced in premises liability because it can be hard to negotiate for a settlement on one's own. The other side may not even be willing to negotiate, in which case the only path left open is to litigate. With a lawyer, victims may build up their case with all the necessary evidence.

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