Family sues Snyder over woman’s Legionnaires’ death
The family of a Grand Blanc woman who says she died after being exposed to legionella bacteria in Flint’s contaminated drinking water sued Gov. Rick Snyder, state health officials and McLaren Regional Medical Center on Thursday.
Bertie Marble, 68, died March 20, 2015, while she was a patient at McLaren located in Flint where her family maintains she contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The lawsuit alleges that state and hospital officials “knew as early as October 2014 and certainly by January 2015” that there were increased reported illnesses from the deadly bacteria and that the likely source was Flint water.
“These government officials, acting in concert with Defendant McLaren, exacerbated the crisis by concealing the increased risk of exposure to the deadly legionella bacteria, failing to take effective remedial action to eliminate it, failing to advise and warn and then lying about it to cover up their misconduct,” the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court reads.
A Snyder representative declined to comment. An official from McLaren didn’t return a call or emails for comment late Thursday.
Some former and current state environmental and health officials face state criminal charges for their roles in the water contamination and a subsequent Legionnaires’ outbreak linked to at least 12 deaths, including Michigan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells. She faces obstruction of justice and false statement charges.
State Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon and four other former state and Flint officials also are accused of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $7,500 fine.
Marble’s family is suing Wells, Lyons, the city of Flint and a series of engineering companies involved in the water switch in 2014 from Lake Huron water in the Detroit system to the Flint River. The family’s attorneys are William Goodman and Julie Hurwitz.
Lyon is accused of failing to alert the public about an initial Legionnaires’ outbreak when he “had notice that another outbreak was foreseeable.” The warrant documents allege he learned about the first wave in January 2015, nearly a year before Snyder’s public announcement. The state didn’t publicly acknowledge the Legionnaires’ outbreak until a hastily organized news conference in Detroit by Snyder on Jan. 13, 2016.
Wells’ and Lyon’s attorneys have previously said they will vigorously fight the charges.
Marble’s lawsuit alleges that at least 14 exposed to Flint river water have died from contracting Legionnaires’.
“At least one case of Legionnaires’ disease occurred in 2016, even after the city’s water supply was switched back to the (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department), indicating that the disease still poses a risk to the community,” the lawsuit reads.
Legionnaires’ disease spiked in Flint shortly after the city switched to the Flint River in April 2014 as a money saving measure.
A February 2016 Detroit News review of 24,000 pages of Flint-related documents among local, state and federal officials found that state officials told six U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials in March 2015 that they would soon alert the public to the Legionnaires' outbreak but didn’t.