Family blames hospital for man's death from Legionnaires' disease

The lawsuit, which includes three other deaths, is the first filed concerning an outbreak of Legionella at the hospital in February 2011, when Charles O. Preston was a patient. Preston’s death certificate states he died March 23 from Legionella pneumonia.

Hospital officials said in March that 11 patients were infected.

It was the largest outbreak in Ohio since 2004, when 13 confirmed or probable cases were reported at a Cuyahoga County worksite. Miami Valley Hospital did report six cases in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Dwight Brannon. The families of deceased patients Robert Austin of Springfield and Doris Day of Kettering are also represented. Though their death certificates don’t mention Legionella, medical records and an oral admission by a hospital attorney confirm that they had the infection, according to the complaint.

Additionally, Brannon is seeking information on a patient who died Feb. 21, who also had Legionnaires’ disease, according to the complaint.

A surviving patient, Janis Lowery, is also represented. She “has suffered a significant loss of lung function, other health hazards and emotional distress as a results of contracting Legionnaires’ disease,” the complaint states.

The Dayton Daily News has extensively covered the outbreak and subsequent developments since last March.

The lawsuit names multiple officials with the hospital and Premier Health Partners as defendants, as well as a number of firms involved in the construction of the hospital’s new wing, which opened in December 2010.

Hospital officials said they could not comment on pending litigation and referred calls to attorney Neil Freund, who said on Wednesday that he could not comment.

Preston was hospitalized from Feb. 9 through Feb. 15, 2011, for treatment of severe back pain. He returned to the hospital Feb. 25 with complaints of fever, malaise, fatigue and headache. That same day, he tested positive for the infection.

Preston transferred to Trinity Nursing Home on March 1, then back to the hospital March 15, then returned to the nursing home under the care of Hospice of Dayton, according to the complaint.

Brannon also lists “approximately 127 patients” as unknown plaintiffs, people who were admitted to, treated at or present in the new wing during its first three months of operation, as well as all “visitors, frequenters, invitees, licensees and workmen.”

The complaint claims that the construction was done by a “pre-fabricated method,” in which corridor modules, bathroom pods and patient room headwalls were assembled in leased warehouses two miles away from the hospital.

The defendants performed water pressure tests on those units, then let them sit in the warehouses for months, allowing the Legionella bacteria to develop, the complaint states.

At the time of the outbreak, hospital officials suspected the Legionella bacteria colonized during construction of the $135 million tower. It shut down the patient tower’s water system Feb. 22-25 for sterilization.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2057 or lgrieco@Dayton DailyNews.com.

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