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Contaminated Water at Miami Hotel Kills One Guest and Sickens Two Others

As a Pompano Beach premises liability attorney, I was very interested in a recent report about an outbreak caused by contaminated water at an upscale Miami hotel. The Miami Herald reported Dec. 13 that bacteria in the water at the Epic Hotel is believed responsible for one death among the guests and two other cases of illness. All three victims contracted a rare form of pneumonia called Legionellosis, or Legionnaires’ disease, which is generally transmitted by breathing water vapors infected with the Legionella family of bacteria. Authorities say that the three victims represent only a fraction of all of the guests the hotel had seen over the past two months, but about 300 guests still asked to be moved to other hotels.

The problem was uncovered by a joint investigation between Florida state health officials and the Miami-Dade County Health Department. The investigators put the blame on the hotel’s powerful new water filter — which, ironically, was intended to improve the quality of the drinking water. The filter was so powerful that it removed the chlorine from ordinary Miami city tap water, allowing bacteria to grow. The result was three known cases of Legionnaires’ disease in the past two months, affecting unrelated European tourists. The first victim, a man, visited the hotel on the way to a cruise ship, where he became ill. He was rushed back to the mainland for treatment, but died. The other two victims were a man sickened in late November and a woman who fell ill this month. The article did not mention whether they have recovered. Poor international communication prevented authorities from discovering the connections earlier, county officials said.

The article says that the hotel is working with the county to fix the problem, by bypassing the water filter and temporarily tripling the chlorine in the hotel’s supply. But as a Hallandale Beach dangerous premises lawyer, I wonder whether careful investigation beforehand would have revealed that the water filter was removing necessary safeguards from the hotel’s water supply. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella bacteria are common in the environment and especially likely to be passed on at hotels. Like many bacteria, they thrive in the warmer temperatures common in South Florida. Chlorinated drinking water may taste bad, but it’s also specifically intended to inhibit growth of microbes in the public water supply. All of these facts suggest that the hotel should have at least considered the chance of contamination before filtering out the chlorine.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn represents residents of, and visitors to, South Florida who have been seriously hurt by someone else’s negligence. This includes negligent failure to maintain property in a way that avoids foreseeable harm to visitors and customers. All businesses open to the public in Florida have a legal obligation to remove hazards as soon as reasonable, or post warnings when that’s not possible. When they don’t, and visitors are hurt as a result, they can be held legally and financially responsible for the results. Our Hialeah premises liability attorneys represent people who were hurt in slips and trips, falls from heights, machinery accidents, violent crimes and dog attacks as well as toxic exposure at a property. We help these people hold the property operators responsible for their accidents and collect needed financial compensation — for their injuries as well as for the high medical bills those injuries cause.

If you or someone you love was seriously hurt on a Florida property that could and should have been maintained better, don’t hesitate to call Cohn, Smith & Cohn for help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, you can contact us through our Web site or call (954) 431-8100 today.

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