Sheraton Atlanta Files Lawsuit Against Insurance Companies After Legionella Outbreak
As claims come in from people affected by a deadly outbreak of Legionella bacteria last July, the Sheraton Atlanta hotel on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court.
In the suit, the company behind Sheraton Atlanta asks a judge to obligate insurance companies to pay for defense attorneys who will defend against guests' claims of harm during the outbreak and to protect the hotel from financial harm should former guests win monetary awards, attorney Jeffrey Diamond said.
More than 50 claims have been made and five lawsuits have been filed claiming “bodily injury.” One of the claims is by the estate of a person whose death was linked to the exposure.
“It's a type of a lawsuit called declaratory judgment in which the parties to an insurance policy — the insureds and the insurance companies — are going to litigate whether or not there is coverage for the claims of the people who are alleged to have been injured by the Legionella outbreak," Diamond said.
There are two sets of lawyers involved with the suit and Diamond is the Georgia-based attorney for AREPII SA Hotel LLC and the Arden Group, Inc., which is the first named insured on the insurance policies. The lawsuit is in the pleading phase and could take between 12 to 18 months to conclude, Diamond said.
Hundreds of people who visited the Sheraton between June 12 and July 15 filled out surveys that were reviewed by state health officials after the Sheraton voluntarily shut down when six people became sick.
Legionnaires’ disease is a very serious type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in small droplets of water in the air that contain the bacteria.
Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease include fever, chills, cough and shortness of breath. Treatment involves antibiotics, and most cases of this illness are treated successfully.
The number of people with Legionnaires' disease grew by nearly four times from 2000 to 2014, according to the CDC. There were 14 confirmed cases including one death and 67 probable cases of the disease connected to Sheraton Atlanta, according to the state health department.
"Probable cases are people who had illness consistent with Legionnaires’ disease, including pneumonia diagnosed by a clinician or chest X-ray, but without laboratory confirmation," DPH spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said.
About 6,100 cases of Legionnaires' disease were reported in the United States in 2016. In Georgia, 189 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in 2018, and 172 cases in 2017.