|Back in November 2014, several residents living in Co-Op City (located in the Bronx, NY) started developing symptoms of a potentially-fatal disease called Legionnaires’ disease; by January 2015, the NBC New York reported that 12 cases of the disease had been diagnosed, and that the city’s Health Department believed at least 75% of those cases were related to water contamination in one of the community’s cooling towers.
Now, about three months after the outbreak grabbed headlines, the victims of the outbreak have begun taking action.
Ronald Hines, a 29-year-old Co-Op City resident and victim of the Legionnaires’ outbreak, is now suing Co-Op City and its management company Riverbay Corp., according to the New York Daily News. Hines appears to be the first outbreak victim to sue the company, although health officials have stated that at least eight of the 12 diagnosed Legionnaires’ cases were definitely connected to the contaminated water.
As the New York Post explains, the 35-building residential complex named “Co-Op City” had been using two wet cooling towers for its heating and electrical systems. The water became contaminated with the Legionella bacteria strain at some point, which tends to grow in warm, moist environments and which has been linked to Legionnaires’ disease when inhaled through the air via microscopic water droplets.
This is likely how the eight Co-Op City victims (including Hines) contracted the disease, although investigators are still uncertain exactly how the victims came into direct contact with the cooling tower water.
Luckily for Hines, he managed to live through the illness — even though he was reportedly treated only after his father “found [Hines] crawling on the apartment floor, mumbling incoherently.”
Even months after being treated, Hines still suffers from the aftereffects of Legionnaires’.
“I’m not the same person at all,” Hines explained to the NY Daily News. “I’m angry because this could have been prevented.”
Although Co-Op City made sure to take swift measures to disinfect the cooling towers after the outbreak made newspaper headlines, many residents, like Hines, believe that the company did not take the proper precautions and safety inspections that are normally required. The fact that one case of Legionnaires’ was found in the community during 2013 and during 2012 also suggests that the bacteria may have been present for years.
Although it’s currently unknown how much monetary compensation Hines is demanding, if he ends up winning his lawsuit, Co-Op City and Riverbay could also be held responsible for all medical treatments and compensation for all eight of the victims affected by the disease.