A Waco attorney who alleges he contracted Legionnaires’ disease during a six-day stay at a hotel in Lacy Lakeview is suing the hotel and its corporate owner.

Samuel Wright, a legal reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is seeking from $200,000 to $1 million in damages in his suit, filed Wednesday in Waco’s 414th State District Court against Avatar Frontera Waco, owner of Fairfield Inn & Suites Waco North, 4257 N. Interstate 35.

Shirley Ucol, general manager of the Lacy Lakeview hotel, declined comment on the lawsuit, and Rajnish K. Mittal, of Plano, part of the hotel ownership group, did not return phone messages.

Wright and his son checked into the Fairfield Inn Waco North on June 27 while their apartment was being renovated. They stayed six days. Wright became ill at church a few days after they checked out, the suit claims.

“Plaintiff saw numerous doctors and was eventually admitted to Providence Hospital for extensive work-up where he was diagnosed with and treated for Legionnaires’ disease,” according to the suit. “Five to 10 percent of people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease will not survive. Fortunately, Plaintiff Samuel Wright did survive, but suffered significantly from the Legionnaires’ disease.”

The lawsuit alleges Williams was unaware that the hotel had an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2017 and hotel officials did not inform him of that.

“I think it is highly unusual to have a hotel, or any facility, really, that would have an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease three years in a row,” Wright’s attorney, Dale D. Williams, said. “They have had outbreaks in 2016, 2017 and now in 2018.”

Kelly Craine, a spokeswoman for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, confirmed that there were two cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported in 2016, two cases in 2017 and three cases last year. All the reported cases emanated from the Fairfield Inn Waco North, she said.

“We haven’t had any reported cases since summer, and it is still what we consider under investigation, where we are still working with them and monitoring the water,” Craine said.

The lawsuit alleges the hotel was negligent in its operations.

“Defendant Fairfield Inn had a history of exposing invitees to Legionnaires’ disease and failed to exercise ordinary care to keep the hotel in reasonably safe condition, failed to inspect the hotel to discover latent defects, failed to make the premises safe and failed to give an adequate warning to Plaintiff Samuel Wright,” the suit alleges.

The bacterial disease is a form of pneumonia and is typically contracted through inhalation of mist or vapor from contaminated water. Infected people are not considered contagious.

“Cases are often associated with large or complex water systems,” according to a city of Waco press release issued last year. “Legionella (the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease) can grow if a water system is not properly maintained. The infection is caused by breathing in a mist or vapor containing the bacteria. The most likely sources of infection include potable water, cooling towers for air conditioning systems, decorative fountains and hot tubs.”

Symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease typically start two days to two weeks after exposure and include high fever, chills, cough, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches, according to the press release.

Wright is seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, loss of earning capacity and significant medical expenses, according to the lawsuit.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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