Tennessee Health Club Sued Over Legionnaire’s Disease

July 22, 2013

A man who used a Memphis fitness club linked to cases of Legionnaires’ disease has filed a $2 million lawsuit.

The Commercial Appeal reported attorney Sadler Bailey filed the negligence suit in Shelby County Circuit Court on behalf of 44-year-old Jerome Walsh.

The lawsuit claims the 24 Hour Fitness USA location in east Memphis allowed the bacterial infection to grow, infecting Walsh, who was hospitalized June 11-14 after falling ill. Walsh is one of three who reportedly contracted the disease sometime between May 21 and June 21.

“Legionnaires’ is a bacteria and it flourishes in warm water, stagnant water, unsterile water,” said Bailey. “If this facility had just gone through the routine, this disease wouldn’t have survived. Obviously somebody didn’t clean the whirlpool.”

Robin Rootenberg, a spokeswoman for the center’s corporate office in California, said the facility was maintained in accordance with industry standards and cleaned with industry-standard chemicals.

“Our inspection and testing is ongoing,” she said in an email. “In cooperation with the health department, we have engaged an environmental remediation firm approved by the health department, to conduct further testing and to complete any necessary remediation.”

The Health Department began investigating after a complaint from a victim’s family member. The department inspected the center on June 18 and also had a third party firm to come in and test the problem areas, which remain closed.

“The company is currently in the sterilization phase and will be doing post decontamination swabs to confirm eradication of the bacterium,” said department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hart in an email. “(There is) no known timeline of completion.”

The disease is contracted by breathing mist or vapor that carries the bacteria that causes it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

Each year, an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 Americans are hospitalized after contracting the disease, which can be prevented by maintenance of water systems, according to the CDC.

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