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What Can we Learn From the Recent Legionella Outbreak at The Sheraton, Atlanta?

Posted by Chloe on Sep 4, 2019 1:30:45 PM



The Sheraton Hotel in Atlanta has opened its doors again after a month-long shutdown related to Legionella. The hotel, which is part of the Marriot group, closed its doors on the 15th of July after a dozen people who had stayed at the facility succumbed to Legionnaires’ disease in a major outbreak. So far, the outbreak has resulted in one death, eleven confirmed cases and a staggering sixty-three cases which have been labelled by officials as ‘probable’1. Legionella has subsequently been found in the hotel’s cooling tower and the fountain located in the hotel’s foyer2. The hotel’s whole water distribution system has now undergone treatment2.

Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP claim the outbreak is bound to have a huge financial and reputational impact on the Sheraton, Atlanta3. Their bottom line will inevitably be affected by loss of business both during the closure and for the period thereafter due to the likely knock-on effect of publicity, in the form of lost reservations and exhibitions.

The Sheraton has already paid out for extensive remedial action and due to extensive press coverage about the outbreak, may also suffer from long-lasting damage to their brand3. Further legal complications for The Sheraton have cropped up out of the outbreak. A lawsuit was recently filed against them by attorneys Chris Steward and Matt Wetherington, which demands damages for past, present and future pain and suffering, related expenses and loss of wages experienced by victims4.

Steward and Wetherington, who are representing more than 40 individuals affected by the outbreak, have filed a lawsuit against the hotel, Arden Group, Arepii Sa Hotel, Ken Peduzzi (the hotel’s general manager) andseveral contractors involved in the management of Sheraton Altana’s water systems1,2. The lawsuit accuses the Sheraton Atlanta, Arden Group, Arepii Sa Hotel, Ken Peduzzi and other parties who are yet to be named of negligence. Steward and Wetherington argue that all parties mentioned above breached their duties by failing to take the necessary precautions to guarantee reasonable and safe conditions for guests, and for failing to act upon or warn guests about the risk present at the facility4.

High profile cases like this one demonstrate the importance of prioritising water safety in a hotel setting. The consequences to human and business health if systems are not properly maintained and regularly tested are serious and can cause long-lasting financial and reputational problems for resorts and hotels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 9 out of 10 outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are preventable with better water system management5, which is why a preventative approach to Legionella growth and spread is so highly recommended by our Legionella experts. With better control and monitoring in place, outbreaks can be avoided. To reduce Legionella risk, hotels need a Legionella prevention plan in place. As part of this, controls such as temperature and biocide levels should be kept within safe limits and regular testing carried out to ensure conformance and effectiveness of the plan. By incorporating new rapid on-site testing technologies like Hydrosense general managers can carry out frequent, cost-effective rapid testing - helping keep people safe and avoiding downtime, litigation and other business risks. The novel method allows for instant results and faster remedial action and helps duty holders to take action immediately thus avoiding the outcomes experienced by the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel.


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  1. Brumback, K. (2019). Available at: http://bit.ly/2lyZ4qP [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].
  2. Bracken II, L., Levine, M. and Russo, A. (2019). Hunton Insurance Recovery Blog. Available at: http://bit.ly/2khB0IZ [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].
  3. Fox 5. (2019). Available at: http://bit.ly/2jUtDqq [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].
  4. CDC (2018). Available at: http://bit.ly/2kf51Jn [Accessed 30 Aug. 2019].

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