Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant City widow files suit in Legionnaires' disease death

Last October, just weeks after moving to Plant City, Gene Swanson became ill.

The recent retiree had a fever, harsh cough and fatigue. Doctors admitted him to South Florida Baptist Hospital.

He died three days later on Oct. 15.

The cause: complications stemming from Legionnaires' disease.

Now, a year after Swanson's death, his widow continues to seek justice.

According to a lawsuit filed by Betty Swanson this summer in Hillsborough County Civil Court, a fountain at the mobile home park may be to blame for her husband's death.

And findings from the Hillsborough County Health Department back that theory up.

Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by a naturally occurring bacteria that grows best in warm water, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is most commonly found in hot tubs, cooling towers or parts of air-conditioning systems in large buildings. People can become infected by breathing contaminated mist or vapor, but it does not spread from person to person.

Three people at the 55-and-older mobile home park became sick with the disease in October 2011, according to the health department. Gene Swanson was the only one who died.

Just days after the outbreak, a nine-person team of public health specialists combed the 799-unit park, checking fountains, ponds, pools and spas as possible sources of the disease.

With the aid of an independent environmental testing company, the health department found that water in the decorative fountain outside the main clubhouse was the only sample that tested positive for the strain of Legionella that caused disease, according to a report.

"The likely source of the three cases of Legionnaires' disease was the decorative fountain outside of the main clubhouse," the report said.

The health department determined that the fountain had been sitting idle for about a month before being restarted in October and that algae and water temperatures greater than 70 degrees may have contributed to the growth of Legionella.

No new cases have been found since the outbreak, the report said. It is not clear if the fountain is still in operation.

The lawsuit names the Meadows at Countrywood, property manager Equity Lifestyle Properties, the Country Meadows Residents Association and then-general manager Rick Feather as defendants.

The lawsuit contends that the gated golf course community failed to properly maintain and inspect the fountain and neglected to inform residents of possible health risks related to the fountain.

The Meadows at Countrywood "had a duty to warn residents such as Gene Swanson of the dangerous, hazardous and/or unsafe condition created by its failure to adequately maintain the fountain and other water supplies in safe condition," the lawsuit states.

Betty Swanson is suing for health-related costs associated with her husband's death.

Walter Jaccard, vice president of legal matters at Equity Lifestyle Properties, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The bacteria that cause Legionnaires' disease have been found in decorative fountains before, according to the health department report. In 2010, researchers linked an outbreak in a Wisconsin hospital to a decorative fountain in the lobby, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Plant City widow files suit in Legionnaires' disease death 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31

    Blogs

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win

    Blogs

    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday

    Bucs

    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle