Sick with Legionnaires’ disease? Call (612) 337-6126
Elliot Olsen has regained millions of dollars for people who were injured by Legionnaires’ disease. If you or a family member feel like you should take part in one of these Sugar Hill Project lawsuits, please call (612) 337-6126 for a free consultation.

More lawsuits have been filed against New York City’s Sugar Hill Project, a housing complex in Harlem whose cooling tower allegedly gave nearly 60 people Legionnaires’ disease in 2018.

According to the lawsuits filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, nine new plaintiffs said the Sugar Hill Project (898 St. Nicholas Avenue) had a contaminated cooling tower that spread water droplets that gave them Legionella bacteria and landed them in the hospital.

The plaintiffs are suing Sugar Hill’s parent company, Broadway Housing Communities Inc., and cooling tower company, Clarity Water Technologies LLC, for negligence for two 2018 outbreaks, one over the summertime in which 27 people were sickened, and the other in the fall, when 32 people became ill. Two victims died because of their illnesses, one in each outbreak.

Residents of the complex claim in the lawsuits that they experienced “significant impairment, hospitalization, complications, symptoms, and problems caused by Legionnaires’ disease,” which they continue “to experience to the present day.”

Sugar Hill Project lawsuits: 13 and counting

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is Scott Harford, who earlier this year filed three lawsuits in conjunction with Minneapolis attorney Elliot Olsen, one of the leading Legionnaires lawyers in the country.

Olsen told USA Today in a February 2019 article that, although hospitals and nursing homes are required to bolster oversight of building water systems and medical equipment, there is little to no regulatory oversight of the water systems in apartment complexes like the Sugar Hill Project.

“There’s not a lot of people checking up on a hotel, a condominium or a large building,” Olsen said. “I am not aware of any oversight really at any level.”

The nine lawsuits give Harford a total of 13 he has brought.

Sugar Hill Project lawsuits: ‘all necessary steps’

Broadway Housing Communities did not return a request to comment, but Michael Shalhoub, a lawyer for Clarity Water Technologies, said, “Our client takes seriously the health risks posed by Legionella. We are confident that our client has taken all necessary steps to protect the public from these risks, and we are prepared to defend the claims made against it in court.”

Sugar Hill Project lawsuits: disease info

Legionnaires’ disease – also called legionellosis and Legionella pneumonia – is a severe type of pneumonia or lung infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 25,000 cases of pneumonia due to Legionella bacteria (Legionella pneumophila) occur every year, but only 5,000 cases are reported because of the disease’s nonspecific symptoms (see below).

Additionally, 10 percent of LD victims will die from the infection.

Legionella are contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in the form of mist or vapor. The bacteria grow best in warm water, and they are found primarily in human-made environments.

In addition to cooling towers and the water systems of large buildings, LD outbreaks have been linked to a range of other sources, including:

  • decorative fountains
  • hot tubs, whirlpools and swimming pools at fitness centers and on cruise ships
  • hot water tanks and heaters
  • showers and faucets
  • equipment used in physical therapy
  • mist machines in the produce sections of grocery stores.
Sugar Hill Project lawsuits: cooling towers

Cooling towers contain large amounts of water and are potential breeding grounds for Legionella when they are not properly disinfected and maintained. Water within cooling towers is heated via heat exchange, which is an ideal environment for heat-loving Legionella.

‘‘Legionella is in water supplies at low levels, but it amplifies at certain temperatures,” Olsen told Bloomberg Law in an August 2018 article. “If chlorine levels drop below a certain level, then Legionella proliferates.’’

As the cooling tower moves air through a recirculated water system, it releases a “considerable amount of water vapor” into the atmosphere. If that water contains Legionella, people can contract LD by inhaling that vapor.

Sugar Hill Project lawsuits: disease symptoms

LD symptoms look like other forms of pneumonia or even flu, which is why so many cases go unreported. Early symptoms can include the following:

  • severe headaches
  • muscle aches
  • fever (sometimes 104 degrees or higher)
  • chills
  • loss of appetite.

After the first few days, symptoms can worsen to include:

  • chest pain when breathing (called pleuritic chest pain, due to inflamed lungs)
  • shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • confusion and agitation
  • a cough, which may bring up mucus and/or blood
  • gastrointestinal problems (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting), which occur in about one-third of LD cases.