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Texas Family Sues Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago After Woman Who Contracted Legionnaires' Disease Died

Photo of Jason Muriby

Gibran Ruiz, the husband of a 35-year-old Carol Ruiz, who contracted Legionnaire's disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in November 2017, has filed suit against the hospital.

Legionnaires' disease is a severe type of pneumonia that is caused by the Legionella species of bacteria. Legionella is commonly found in low concentrations in freshwater lakes and streams, but it becomes deadly when it grows and multiplies in human-made water systems, such as hot water tanks, cooling towers, plumbing systems, showerheads, and sink faucets. Once the Legionella bacterium festers in these human-made water systems, the disease is caught by inhaling water droplets-usually in the form of a mist or a vapor-from the contaminated system.

Mrs. Ruiz, of Cypress, Texas, was admitted to Northwestern Memorial on October 25, 2017, as part of stem cell clinical trial that she was accepted into for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. What Mrs. Ruiz and her family did not know was, that just five months earlier, in May 2017, a patient with Legionnaire's disease stayed on the same floor of the hospital and died, likely contaminating the water supply during the course of his several weeks there. Mr. Ruiz's lawsuit accuses Northwestern Memorial of negligence and wrongful death related to, among other things, failing to treat and protect its water supply, to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria.

Hospitals have a duty to actively manage and prevent the growth and spread of dangerous bacteria and diseases in their facilities. According to the CDC, the spread of Legionella can be prevented through effective water management programs, such as maintaining water temperatures outside the ideal range for growth, preventing water stagnation, and ensuring adequate disinfection. The Department of Health and Human Services also requires all Medicare or Medicaid certified healthcare facilities to have specific policies and procedures in place to prevent the growth and spread of Legionella.

In Texas, severe injury or death caused by the spread of bacteria or disease at a hospital or medical facility may fall within the medical malpractice statutes passed by the Texas Legislature in the early 2000's. If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of medical malpractice caused by the spread of bacteria or disease at a medical facility, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 1‑800-594-4884.

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