Legionnaires’ outbreak traced to NJ hot tub
4 new lawsuits filed against Sands Resort Management for failure to inspect hotel spa, showers and hot tubs
Four civil lawsuits have joined a dozen others in connection with the 2018 Legionnaires’ outbreak at Hampton Beach, New Jersey, that sickened 49 people and also caused two deaths.
In 2019, state epidemiologists traced the May through August outbreak to a hot tub at the Sands Hotel in Hampton Beach. After the hot tub was ordered closed in late August, no additional illnesses were reported.
According to that report, “the inadequate maintenance of The Sands Resort hot tub as well as other conditions within the facility, such as low hot water temperatures, may have favored the growth of Legionella bacteria.”
The report said that there were a total of 34 confirmed cases, with patients between the ages of 3 and 88 who contracted the disease, along with 14 probable cases, and another 15 suspected cases.
The new lawsuits were filed by four people who said they stayed at the hotel in August 2018 and shortly after their stay became ill and were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease. All said they spent time in or near the hotel’s spa area and used water at the resort.
The four new suits were initiated by Kimberly M. Jablonski, of Wilbraham, Massachusetts; Todd M. Morris, of South Glen Falls, New York; Kristin Foley, of Wales, Massachusetts; and Lisa M. Fitzherbert, of Pelham, Massachusetts.
Legionnaire’s disease is spread by inhaling the aerosolized spray from water sources containing Legionella bacteria. It grows in biofilm within plumbing systems not penetrated by disinfectants. The disease was discovered in 1976 after an outbreak in Philadelphia that infected more than a hundred people. Plaintiffs say they suffered damages including severe pain and mental suffering, substantial inconvenience while sick, as well as medical expenses.
The latest suits filed against the Sands Resort were filed by Manchester attorney Emile R. Bussiere Jr, of Bussiere & Bussiere.
Bussiere & Bussiere represents some of the other alleged victims of the Sands Resort outbreak including Celeste M. Billingten, Carl Forsman, Louise Pare, Kathleen L. Foley, Bruce Chester, Randy Clark, Kurt Green, Stephen Uliano, Gary Niles, Araceli Morales, and Joyce M. Vaughn on behalf of the estate of Albert Vaughn.
Vaugh, 48, was one of the two who died from Legionnaires’ disease, nearly a month after his stay at the resort. According to the suit, he was found dead on August 24, 2018, after suffering “in his apartment under the false hope that he would survive the illness.”
The suits name Sands Resort Management Co. and Sands Realty Trust, as well as Sands Hotel Realty Trust trustees Thomas Saab, Edward Saab and Leonard J. Samia as defendants.
Previous lawsuits filed also named Aqua Paradise Pools & Spas, a pool and hot tub company, as one of the defendants.
But on February 15, 2021 a judge ruled that the company is not liable for any damages, and the case against them was dismissed.
The judge noted the company does not monitor or regularly maintain commercial pools or hot tubs, although it does do repairs on commercial pool equipment and did so at the Sands Hotel on eight occasions.
The judge also noted that the company had made several safety recommendations to the staff at the Sands Resort even though they were not obligated to do so.
The plaintiffs say that the Sands Resort Management Co. and Sands Realty Trust were negligent in the cleanliness of the hot tub and training employees on how to maintain the hot tub area. They say the hotel breached their duty of reasonable care for failing to inspect the hotel’s water systems, including spa, showers, and hot tubs, for dangerous conditions including Legionella bacteria.
Although the 2019 state health report confirms inadequate hot tub maintenance as well as the presence of Legionella bacteria in nearly half of the water samples collected at the hotel, including within the hot tub, the resort has disputed the finding in prior lawsuits filed against them.
Thomas Saab, who spoke publicly when the outbreak first occurred, argued that the Sands’ water could not have been the only source of Legionella in the area.
According to reports, twelve Sands’ cases are currently making their way to trial. One has a jury selection scheduled for October 12, and one has a jury selection planned for January 10, 2022.