An Orlando, FL, resident has filed suit against a fitness club after being sickened with Legionnaires’ disease last May, according to the Florida Record (https://flarecord.com), an online publication owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.
The complaint (Orange County Circuit Court case #18CA003106) was filed by Reinaldo Mariaca of Orlando against Fitness International, LCC, in Orange County Circuit Court. Mariaca’s suit alleges that the club failed to maintain the premises in a safe condition for its clients. Fitness International operates the health club chain LA Fitness.
Mariaca, who was a business invitee to the club, contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a sometimes-deadly form of pneumonia, after using the club’s amenities. He said he suffered bodily injury, lost the enjoyment of life, incurred a loss of earnings and the ability to earn money, and incurred expenses for hospitalization and medical treatment.
Mariaca alleges Fitness International failed to adequately inspect the showers, water fountains, spas, pools and water fixtures on the premises to determine whether Legionella – the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease – existed before guests used the club.
Mariaca is asking for a trial by jury and seeing damages in excess of $15,000, plus interest and court costs.
A rough 2017 for Orlando’s LA Fitness clubs
Seven guests at three LA Fitness clubs in the Orlando-area, including Mariaca, were infected with Legionnaires’ disease between April and June last year.
Both the Metro West area LA Fitness (4792 Kirkman Road), which is where Mariaca was sickened, and the Hunter’s Creek LA Fitness (12700 S. Orange Blossom Trail) returned positive results for Legionella last June.
In April, three guests of the LA Fitness club in Ocoee (1560 E. Silver Star Road) contracted the disease, but tests for Legionella at that facility were negative.
About 25,000 cases annually
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur in the United States on a yearly basis. However, only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific signs and symptoms.
Legionella bacteria are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria, which thrive in warm water, are found primarily in human-made environments, such as cooling towers, air-conditioning systems, hot tubs, and spas, to name just a few.
Ten percent of those who become infected with Legionnaires’ disease will die from the infection.
Sources of Legionella infection
Outbreaks have been linked to a number of sources:
- hot-water tanks and heaters
- showers and faucets
- swimming pools
- hot tubs and whirlpools
- equipment used in physical therapy
- mist machines and hand-held sprayers
- the cooling towers of air conditioning systems
- large plumbing systems
- water systems such as those used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels
- decorative fountains.
People also can contract Legionnaires’ disease when they “aspirate” contaminated drinking water – that is, choking or coughing while drinking can cause water to go down the wrong pipe into the lungs. It is also possible to contract the disease from home plumbing systems. Both of these, however, happen very rarely.