Fieger: Group seeks $100M over Legionnaires’ disease

Jim Lynch, and Karen Bouffard

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger is representing a group of residents impacted by Genesee County’s spike in Legionnaires’ disease in a lawsuit that seeks damages of more than $100 million.

Southfield-based Fieger Law is targeting employees of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and the McLaren Flint hospital in the suit. McLaren has been identified as a location where water testing identified Legionella bacteria as being present during the outbreak. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has been accused of allowing Flint to utilize water that was not properly treated after the city began drawing its supply from the Flint River in April 2014.

“The more I read and learn about this, the angrier I get,” Fieger said in a press release. “To save a few dollars, the Snyder administration poisoned an entire city and thought they could get away with it because those poisoned were poor, and primarily black.”

The lawsuit features four plaintiffs, including 58-year-old Debra Kidd, who died from Legionnaire’s complications on Aug. 2 just a few days after being diagnosed with Legionnella pneumonia.

On Jan. 13, Snyder reported a spike in cases of the deadly disease in Genesee County, but he and state health officials said it was unclear if there was a connection to Flint’s water crisis. The state reported 87 cases, including nine deaths, in the months after Flint started drawing corrosive water from the Flint River instead of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Tuesday, a Snyder spokesman declined to address the lawsuit specifically.

“Gov. Snyder takes the well-being of all of Michigan residents very seriously, and Flint residents are not an exception to that,” stated Dave Murray in an email response. “Much of Gov. Snyder’s time in office has been focused on improving the quality of life for people living in our urban areas, especially Detroit. Bringing Detroit back to a solid fiscal foundation has allowed the city to restore services and we’ve watched its economy grow, creating jobs and better opportunities.”

In an email to The Detroit News last month, McLaren spokeswoman Laurie Prochazka confirmed the facility undertook “aggressive testing” of its water after noting an increase in Legionnaires’ there and at other hospitals in the spring of 2014.

“Early test results indicated the presence of a low level of Legionella,” she said

The medical center took action and “all Legionella testing continues to show the McLaren Flint water supply is well within safety and quality standards,” Prochazka added.

On Tuesday, Fieger took aim at the hospital’s handling of the situation, saying officials did nothing to halt the outbreak or alert the public.

“A hospital won’t make money if it discloses a Legionnaires’ outbreak from contaminated water, and a governor will stop hearing whispers that he’s being considered for higher office if he reveals a water and Legionnaires’ crisis,” Fieger’s statement reads. “We know what happened here.”

Legionnaires’ disease is caused in warmer months by a bacteria in warm fresh water that leads to pneumonia and sometimes death. The bacteria can be found in large plumbing systems, hot tubs, air conditioning units and fountains.


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