“Every hotel knows that bacteria lives in its water systems. That’s why they have policies, that’s why they have procedures, that’s why they have treatment programs for making sure that Legionnella doesn’t grow in the water systems. The only way that this could happen is if someone didn’t follow the procedures,” attorney Matt Wetherington said during a press conference on Monday.
“The mere occurrence of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak shows that something went wrong,” he said. “It is our hope that we will be able to get answers for the families and that they will be able to get compensation for their injuries.”
In response, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel general manager Ken Peduzzi said in a statement to CNN on Monday that “the hotel does not comment on legal matters.”
“During our closure, we have been working closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fulton County Board of Health and environmental experts to conduct testing to ensure there is no threat of Legionella infection,” Peduzzi wrote. “A thorough cleaning of the hotel’s entire water distribution system has been completed as a precautionary measure, including cleaning, scrubbing and chlorination of all water features.”
He said the hotel is awaiting more test results before announcing a reopening date.
Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics, and most people who get sick make a full recovery, according to the state health department. However, people at an increased risk of illness tend to be 50 or older, current or former smokers, people with chronic lung disease or weak immune systems.
About one in 10 people with Legionnaires’ disease dies, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 7,500 US cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported to the CDC in 2017, the agency said, adding that it’s likely an underestimate because the illness is underdiagnosed.