Settlement Inked In Legionnaire’s Federal Civil Suit

OCEAN CITY — A federal civil suit filed by one of several victims affected by an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease at a Boardwalk hotel in 2011 was settled this week with undisclosed terms, but a similar suit filed by other victims in Worcester County Circuit Court appears to be heading to a five-day trial.

In October 2011, 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 at the Plim Plaza Hotel on the Boardwalk after as many as six individuals who had stayed at the facility during the late summer months had contracted the disease. One of the victims, an elderly out-of-state guest at the hotel, later died.

Five months later, in April 2012, a Virginia couple, Pat Eldon Dent, Jr. and his wife Martha Dent, filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging negligence on the part of the hotel for failing to “adequately inspect, monitor and maintain its premises and the hotel’s water system for dangerous conditions, including but not limited to the presence of legionella.” The Virginia couple was seeking a total of $6 million in compensatory damages, including $5 million for the negligence count and an additional $1 million for loss of consortium.

After months of legal posturing, that case on Monday was dismissed after the parties reached a settlement. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court documents and the attorneys for the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment. However, U.S. District Court Judge William Quarles confirmed the settlement.

“This court has been advised by the parties that the above action has been settled, including all counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party claims, in any,” the judge’s order reads. “This action is hereby dismissed and each party is to bear its own costs unless otherwise agreed. The entry of this order is without prejudice to the right of a party to move for good cause within 30 days to reopen this action if settlement is not consummated.”

While the formal order brings closure to the federal civil suit against the Plim Plaza Hotel, a parallel case filed in Worcester County Circuit Court in June 2012 by 11 plaintiffs including the family of the victim who died from the alleged illness continues to move forward. The local case seeks $1 million for each of the 11 plaintiffs. The trial is to begin May 20.