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Exposure to Legionella Bacteria - Wrongful Death - The Nichols Case

Filed under Wrongful Death, Other Cases

The Nichols Case

Mr. Nichols was an 87 year old Veteran of World War II, who was married and had three sons, as well as numerous grandchildren. He lived in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh, and was still active; cutting his grass, taking care of the driving in his house and caring for his wife at their home.

In late 2012, he began to experience some heart-related issues, and his PCP switched him to a new medication, which unfortunately caused Mr. Nichols to become dehydrated. He entered the VA Hospital in Oakland, Pennsylvania on November 1, 2012, where he was treated with some fluids and other medications to help with his dehydration. However, unfortunately, while he was an inpatient, the VA Hospital had an outbreak of Legionella bacteria.

For years, the VA Hospital in Oakland, Pennsylvania had been at the forefront of Legionella bacteria treatment and testing, however, due to internal issues, the focus was changed from Legionella bacteria to other infectious agents. In addition, although outside consultants were retained to help maintain the water supply at the VA to kill the Legionella bacteria, a decision had been made to try to perform those functions internally with the maintenance staff who was ill-prepared to handle the task of Legionella maintenance in the water supply.

For several months, the Legionella bacteria flourished in the water system at the VA Hospital, causing periodic outbreaks. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the VA staff at the hospital in Oakland, Pennsylvania tried to contain the outbreaks, however, by October 2012, it became impossible and numerous individuals were being exposed to and became sick from the Legionella bacteria. By the end of October 2012, it was determined that a complete shutdown of the water system with flushing had to be done. However, there was a delay in doing so while Mr. Nichols was an inpatient at the hospital. Unfortunately, during his admission while the VA was trying to quarantine the Legionella bacteria, they were unable to do so, and Mr. Nichols was exposed to the Legionella bacteria.

After he became exposed, the staff at the VA did not appropriately recognize or treat Mr. Nichols’ high fever and infection, and by the time that they began treating Mr. Nichols, it was too late, and the Legionella had caused severe pneumonia, compromising Mr. Nichols delicate medical state and eventually caused his death.

A claim was instituted against the United States of America as the representative of the Veterans Administration, and a case was eventually brought in the Western District of Pennsylvania against the United States of America and Veterans Administration.

Thousands of emails and other paper discovery was exchanged and reviewed by the parties and discovery was pursued, and the case was eventually settled for a substantial sum.