Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

New Pittsburgh lawsuit filed over Legionnaires' outbreak

Pittsburgh made headlines for all the wrong reasons when Legionnaires' disease spread through the city's veterans' hospitals in 2011 and 2012. Six patients died as a result of the outbreak and nearly two dozen others became ill. By last month, the federal government had reached settlements for claims brought by families of five veterans who died, according to a triblive.com report.

The son of a former Marine, the sixth fatality caused by the outbreak, recently filed a wrongful death claim. The Aliquippa veteran was under treatment for lung cancer at a Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs facility, when the man was exposed to legionella bacteria. The patient's exposure in September 2011 occurred after hospital officials knew about the outbreak.

The lawsuit claims the hospital waited days before testing the patient, despite symptoms the man had contracted Legionnaires' disease. The 74-year-old patient died in November 2011, less than two months after the initial exposure and just weeks after a transfer to palliative care. The transfer came after the veteran refused further chemotherapy treatments, blaming his "bad" Legionnaires' disease experience.

The surviving son is requesting damages for medical expenses and costs related to his father's funeral, plus other unidentified damages. Reports did not say whether a specific amount of compensation was sought. It's also unclear whether the Justice Department will attempt to reach a settlement with the plaintiff.

By settling the Pittsburgh cases, the government does not have to face trial or acknowledge blame for the veterans' injuries and deaths. Some Capitol Hill lawmakers and veterans' family members have expressed disappointment that the cases aren't headed to court. They wanted a trial to help publicize the alleged negligence of individual VA hospital executives.

Pennsylvania wrongful death claims compensate survivors for losses they suffered due to a family member's death. Damages are awarded when juries have proof a defendant's negligent actions caused the relative's death and the plaintiff's successive losses.

Source: Stars and Stripes, "Family of Marine Corps vet sues Pittsburgh VA for wrongful death" Kristen Doerschner, Beaver County Times, May. 07, 2014

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