Costly Class Action in Outbreak; over the Past Month, Scotland Has Been in the Grips of a Medical Pandemic Which Has Seen Two People Die and More Than 80 People Taken Ill Following a Fatal Outbreak of Legionnaires Disease. Katie Watson, Senior Facilities Manager in the Investment Property Management Team at the Birmingham Office of Colliers International, Considers the Implications for Landlords and Tenants
Byline: Katie Watson
The recent outbreak in Scotland has put legionnaires disease on the public radar and has served as a warning to landlords about the importance of monitoring water systems.
According to guidelines issued by the NHS, an outbreak is defined as 'two or more confirmed cases of Legionellosis occurring in the same locality generally within a six-month period'.
To date the 44 square mile affected area in Edinburgh, which covers the Darly, Gorgie and Saughton areas of the city, has seen 44 confirmed cases, two fatalities and 47 suspected cases, yet the source still remains unconfirmed.
Twelve people, who have contracted the disease, have instructed specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to seek redress. If and when the source is found, a costly class action will no doubt be pursued against the organisation responsible for the outbreak.
In June last year, two firms in Staffordshire were prosecuted after failing to properly manage their water cooling systems and were served with costs and fines totalling nearly pounds 250,000.
Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water.
Water systems particularly vulnerable to contamination are hot and cold water systems for large buildings such as hotels and hospitals, air conditioning systems and cooling towers, although any artificial water system is potentially vulnerable such as baths, showers and sprinkler systems.
To spread, legionella bacteria requires a water temperature of between 20-45[bar]C or impurities in the water such as rust and lime scale that the bacteria can use as food.
Both landlords with multi-let buildings with common areas and servicing and tenants with responsibility for their own plant have a legal duty to ensure that all water systems in a premises or common area are properly operated and maintained to prevent legionnaires disease. …