Legionnaire’s Lawsuit ‘Resolved’

SNOW HILL — Weeks after a federal civil suit filed over an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease at an historic Boardwalk hotel was settled, a parallel case filed last year in Worcester County Circuit Court by 11 different plaintiffs was resolved last week prior to trial.

In October 2011, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMA) 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 on the Boardwalk after multiple individuals who had stayed at the facility during the late summer and early fall months in 2011 had contracted the disease. One of the victims, an elderly woman from Pennsylvania, later died.

After a link between the victims and the Plim Plaza was established, the DHMH Laboratories Administration conducted extensive testing and confirmed the presence of the legionella bacteria in water collected at the facility. Legionella pneumophia, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease, was detected in water collected from various locations at the hotel.

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, the parties reached a settlement in early May. 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.

Meanwhile, last June a parallel 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 was seeking $1 million for negligence and breach of contract.

In the suit, the multiple plaintiffs, from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, alleged “it was the duty of the defendants to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of its premises,” according to court documents. 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.

The trial was set to begin last week and was laid in for five days, but the case was resolved prior to the start of the trial, according to the simple docket entry “stipulation of voluntary dismissal with prejudice.”
The terms of the settlement in the Worcester County Circuit Court suit have not been made public. Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the defendants each responded to a request for the terms of the settlement with a simple comment — “it has been resolved.”