Hotel Group Seeks Dismissal In OC Legionnaire’s Lawsuit

SNOW HILL — Just weeks after a multi-million dollar civil suit was filed against a Boardwalk hotel by several plaintiffs alleging they fell ill to Legionnaire’s Disease while staying there last summer and early fall, the defendants filed a formal answer last week seeking a dismissal of the case.

Last October, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Worcester County Health Department confirmed the presence of legionellosis, more commonly known as Legionnaire’s Disease, in the water system of the Plim Plaza Hotel after multiple individuals staying at the facility during the late summer and early fall months in 2011 had contracted the disease. An elderly woman from Pennsylvania later died of symptoms of the disease.

After a link between the victims and the Plim Plaza was established last October, the DHMH Laboratories Administration conducted extensive testing and confirmed the presence of the legionella bacteria in water collected at the facility.

On June 18, a civil suit was filed in Worcester County Circuit Court against the Plim Plaza on behalf of 11 individual plaintiffs, including the surviving representatives of the elderly Pennsylvania woman who succumbed to Legionnaire’s Disease. Each of the 11 named individual plaintiffs is seeking $1 million for negligence and breach of contract.

Defendants in the multi-plaintiff civil suit include the Plim Plaza, the Harrison Group and owners Hale and John Harrison. In the suit, the multiple plaintiffs, from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, allege “it was the duty of the defendants to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of its premises,” according to court documents.

As to the negligence counts, the suit alleges the defendants “failed to adequately inspect, monitor and maintain its premises and systems for dangerous conditions including the presence of legionella.”

In terms of breach of contract claims, the suit alleges the defendants “breached their duty to their invitees when the defendants knew or should have known their acts and omissions created an unreasonable risk of harm,” according to court documents.

On June 29, however, the defendants, including the Plim Plaza and the Harrison Group, filed a formal answer to the suit, denying liability and seeking a dismissal of the civil action.

“The defendants generally deny the allegations of liability contained in the complaint, and each and every count thereof,” the formal answer reads.

The defendants’ response to the suit addresses each of the counts in the complaint specifically, including the alleged breach of contract allegation. Essentially, the formal answer suggests the plaintiffs’ complaints are unfounded.

“The plaintiffs’ claims and causes of action are barred, in whole or in part, because the defendants owed no legal duty to the plaintiffs or the decedent, or if a legal duty was owed, the defendant did not breach that duty,” the answer reads.

The formal answer to the suit goes on to suggest the plaintiffs’ claims are barred “because none of the alleged acts or omissions of the defendants was the proximate cause of the injuries and damages allegedly sustained by the plaintiffs or the decedent.”

Through their attorneys, the Plim Plaza and the Harrison Group are seeking a complete dismissal of the multi-plaintiff case

“The defendants, having answered the complaint, respectfully request that the court enter an order dismissing with prejudice the plaintiffs’ complaint in its entirety, deny each and every demand, claim and prayer for relief contained in the complaint, and award the defendants their attorney fees and costs, and grant such further relief as the court may deem just and proper,” the answer reads.

A separate but similar suit was filed in U.S. District Court in April on behalf of a Virginia couple inflicted with Legionnaire’s Disease after staying at the Plim Plaza last summer and is proceeding on a parallel track. The Virginia couple is seeking a total of $6 million in compensatory damages against the establishment and its ownership.

Meanwhile, the presence of legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease, was detected last month at a north-end Ocean City condominium. Two individuals, both of whom visited the resort and stayed at the Sea Watch condominiums in north Ocean City, have been diagnosed with symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease. The common denominator in both of those cases has been the Sea Watch, although it remains uncertain if either or both of the victims contracted the illness while staying at the vast condominium complex. What is certain, however, is the condo’s water systems were inspected recently after the second case came to light and certain elements of the facility’s water systems tested positive for the presence of the bacteria.