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Quebec court authorizes class action suit over deaths from legionnaire's disease

Last Updated Feb 25, 2016 at 9:00 am EST

QUEBEC – A Quebec court has authorized a class-action suit related to an outbreak of legionnaire’s disease that is believed to have contributed to 14 deaths.

The lead plaintiff is Solange Allen, whose husband, Claude Desjardins, died in August 2012 at the age of 64.

The class-action filed in Quebec Superior Court states that 167 people suffered financially from the outbreak in Quebec City.

The defendants include the Quebec Health Department and regional health officials in the provincial capital.

The plaintiffs are seeking $50,000 plus expenses for anyone who contracted the disease, $10,000 plus expenses for anyone who looked after someone with the disease, $125,000 for a surviving spouse, and $30,000 for the beneficiaries of people who died.

They also want funeral costs covered.

A coroner’s report in 2013 said public health authorities did not have the proper tools to combat the outbreak, which came 16 years after similar cases in 1996 prompted calls for change.

Legionnaires’ disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated with bacteria. Symptoms include coughs, fever, chills and respiratory problems.

The deadly bacteria grows in the stagnant water of cooling systems and spreads in little droplets through air conditioning.

Heavy smokers and people with weak immune systems are most at risk of catching the disease, which is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.

It presents little or no risk to most people, although elderly people are more vulnerable.