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Family sues Gov. Snyder, McLaren hospital, after woman supposedly dies from Legionnaires' disease

McLaren Hospital in Flint and the Genesee County Health Department have been working with the Centers for Disease Control since a court order is preventing local officials from talking directly with the state health department.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The majority of those who died during a 2015 outbreak of Legionnaire's disease were patients at McLaren Hospital in Flint.

The family of a Grand Blanc woman, who family members believe died from Legionnaires’ disease in 2015, is suing Governor Rick Snyder and McLaren Regional Medical Center, among other named defendants, in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Bertie Marble died March 20, 2015 while she was a patient at Flint’s McLaren Hospital. Attorney Bill Goodman is representing the family members that filed the lawsuit. He claims the decision by state officials to switch Flint's water source to the Flint River exposed Marble to Legionnella bacteria, and that state officials and the hospital failed to tell patients at McLaren about the risk.

“Switching the water source, and using a highly toxic water source from the Flint River instead of Detroit water — that’s how she got the disease,” Goodman said. “Then … the state of Michigan and McLaren Hospital joined together in covering it up.”

Goodman says exposure to Legionnella bacteria was never determined to be the cause of Marble’s death. Though he says there is a “very strong inference” that she did. He claims the hospital concealed that information. In court, Goodman says he’ll really on an expert witness to determine whether exposure to Legionnaires’ was a factor in Marble’s death.

In 2014 and 2015, Genesee County saw the largest outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in at least a decade. The outbreak coincided with the city of Flint’s switch from Detroit city water to water from the Flint River.

Goodman says McLaren knew about the risk for Legionnella bacteria exposure, but never told patients like Bertie Marble.

“We are almost certain they’ve been contacted by various representatives of the state of Michigan — and told of this and warned of it, and probably told, ‘Don’t say anything,’” Goodman said.

Five current and former government officials are facing involuntary manslaughter charges related to the Flint water crisis in connection with the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the charges in June. The officials charged with involuntary manslaughter are named as defendants in the Marble family lawsuit as well.

Also named in the lawsuit are engineering firms the lawsuit claimed conspired with government officials to conceal the “highly dangerous and potentially fatal consequences” of switching Flint’s water source to the Flint River from Detroit city water.

Goodman says the hospital failed to inform the Marble family that she had likely died from exposure to Legionella bacteria.

“If they had told her, "We suspect Legionnaires', but we can’t get a urine sample, and the only way to know for sure is to do an autopsy, the family would have absolutely jumped at that,” Goodman said. “But that was never said to them.”

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. A spokesperson from Governor Snyder’s office declined to comment on pending litigation. Requests for comment from McClaren went unanswered. 

Tyler Scott is the weekend afternoon host at Michigan Public, though you can often hear him filling in at other times during the week. Tyler started in radio at age 18, as a board operator at WMLM 1520AM in Alma, Michigan, where he later became host of The Morning Show.
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