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Conference Attendees Suddenly Stricken with a Deadly Illness

When thinking about premises liability claims, the natural assumption is that a defect on residential or commercial property resulted in serious injury. Not all cases involve broken bones or head injuries. Physical injuries can occur without the victim being immediately aware that something is wrong.

Between June 22 and July 15, dozens of guests at The Sheraton Atlanta were attending a variety of conferences with topics ranging from baseball to parents of adopted children. Without warning, dozens were stricken with severe illnesses in the days following their departure.

One guest, in particular, found food and water tasting strange. Not long after, he lost his appetite, suffered extreme hot and cold body temperatures, and felt confused and fatigued.

He was one of twelve diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease among an additional 63 probable cases. One hotel patron died.

Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria that occur naturally in lakes and streams. When it spreads into water systems, particularly in buildings, illness can occur. Consumption of the tainted water can result in pneumonia or lung infections. Symptoms start with fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath. As evidenced with the Sheraton customers, death is a strong possibility.

Any level of care or testing of the water system at best fell short at the hotel, and at worst was grossly negligent, according to an attorney who filed suit against the companies that own, manage and maintain the hotel. The Sheraton did voluntarily and temporarily close to allow officials to secure samples for testing and conduct a thorough cleaning of the entire water system.

However, for many victims and a grieving family, the actions were too little and far too late.

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