Montreal

Quebec woman who lost husband in Legionnaires' outbreak wants to sue province

Solange Allen's husband Claude Desjardins died of Legionnaires' disease during the 2012 outbreak. Now Allen is seeking permission to launch a class-action suit seeking compensation from Quebec.

14 people died, 167 others got sick from 2012 outbreak traced to Quebec City building

Solange Allen is seeking permission to launch a class-action suit aimed at public health officials, the province of Quebec and the owner of the building where Legionella bacteria flourished in 2012. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

A lawyer requesting permission to file a class-action lawsuit over the 2012 deadly Legionnaires' outbreak in Quebec City says public health officials weren't properly prepared to deal with the situation.

Jean-Pierre Ménard argued at the Quebec City courthouse on Tuesday that mismanagement by public health officials made the outbreak last longer and led to more deaths.

Ménard is representing Solange Allen, who lost her husband Claude Desjardins to the severe pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacterium.

Desjardins was among the 14 people who died that summer.

Public health officials said 167 other people were infected by the bacterium over the course of the summer.

The deadly bacteria grow in the stagnant water of cooling systems and spread in droplets through air conditioning. (Janice Haney Carr/Centers for Disease Control/Associated Press)

It took more than two months to find the source of the bacteria, which turned out to be water in the rooftop cooling system of a downtown building.

The proposed lawsuit contends the province should have established a mandatory list of all buildings with cooling systems, as recommended in the late 1990s after an earlier Legionnaires' outbreak in the city.

Allen said her husband was 64 when he died and four months away from retirement.

She was joined in court Tuesday by others who lost a relative to listen to legal arguments about whether the class-action should be allowed.

The proposed lawsuit is aimed at public health officials, the province of Quebec and the owner of the building where the bacteria flourished. Quebec's attorney general is also named in the proposed suit.

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