Successful claim following contraction of Legionnaires pneumonia in Italy

Posted by Ian Jenkins on

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Mr B and his wife spent four days at an Italian hotel in 2009. About 8 days after his return to the UK, Mr B began to feel ill and was admitted to hospital.

At the hospital, Mr B was diagnosed with suffering legionnaire's pneumonia. He was in hospital for over a week as a result of his illness. Thankfully, Mr B went onto to make a reasonable recovery, whereas some sufferers are not so fortunate. Only last year in Spain, 3 British tourists died from legionnaires allegedly as a result of staying at the same hotel in Costa Blanca. Legionnaires can be fatal, particularly with older people with weaker immune systems.

Legionnaires’ is caused by the legionella bacterium which is from breathing in droplets of infected water in the air. The difficulty we faced was attributing the legionnaires to the hotel, since the illness could have been easily contracted from elsewhere such as restaurants with faulty air conditioning.

However this was Italy in winter and perhaps air conditioning was a less likely cause. Mr B told us that he used the shower often at the hotel. It is known that the bacteria can spread through the hot water systems or air conditioning units in hotels. Therefore was the hotel's shower the cause of Mr B's illness?

We instructed our agent in Italy to make some preliminary enquiries with the local health authority. Thankfully Mr B's local health authority upon learning of Mr B's illness, reported it to their Italian counterparts. An inspection was carried out and legionnaires were discovered at the hotel, albeit not in the room that Mr B stayed in. The Local Health Authority ordered an urgent sanitary clearance. Mr B also had his home tested for legionnaires and no trace of the bacteria was found.

At this stage, we instructed a microbiologist to review the evidence and to determine whether Mr B's illness was due to the hotel. The microbiologist was concerned to note that the hotel could not provide evidence of a regular system of shower flushing, if they had, this may have weakened Mr B's claim against them quite considerably. Although Mr B symptoms occurred over week after his return to the UK, it was within the recognised incubation period. The report mentioned that the incubation period is usually 5-6 days, occasionally 7-10 days and in rare cases up to 3 weeks after first exposure. Mr B's incubation was well within the recognised period and on the balance of probabilities it was concluded that the illness was a result of staying at the hotel.

We then obtained a medical report from a respiratory physician who concluded that Mr B suffered legionnaires and had made a complete recovery within a few months when he returned to work.

Fortunately for Mr B, he had purchased a package holiday and therefore he was entitled to English damages which were more generous than Italian damages. Proceedings were issued against the UK Tour Operator. The Defendant was quick to accept fault leaving damages to be agreed. 

Mr B accepted £10,000.00 net which included general damages, loss of earnings and care and assistance provided by his wife.


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About the Author

Ian is a Legal executive in our Travel team.

Ian Jenkins
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023 8085 7311

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