Court kicks out Legionnaires’ Disease claim
In another case where the innocent lose their lives – yet no one is to blame, the families of the 14 victims of the Vila Franca de Xira ‘Legionaires’ disease’ outbreak are highly unlikely ever to receive a cent in compensation.
The local court has decided to acquit ADP Fertilizantes SA. in a case brought by one survivor, Leonel Ferreira, who sought €200,000 in compensation for his subsequent incapacity.
The 2014 Legionella outbreak spread from the fertilizer factory’s cooling tower, across the southern parishes of the Vila Franca de Xira municipality in the Ribatejo.
The judge concluded that the factory had complied with the legal regulations when hiring a company qualified to disinfect the cooling tower, This tower was the source of the outbreak, according to environmental and health experts who investigated the case.
Yet, the judge’s summary stated that it had not been proved that the strain of the bacterium that affected the claimant was the same as the one in the cooling tower.
The second reason given for dismissing the claim was the unreliability of the water samples taken from the cooling tower by the Regional Health Authority, which revealed significantly higher rates of bacteria than the samples collected by the General Inspectorate for the Environment.
Varela de Matos, the claimant’s lawyer, considers it, “extraordinary and bizarre to conclude that, despite the expertise of the Judicial Police and the public institutions, the source of the Legionella bacteria (that affected his client) has not been proven.”
On behalf of Leonel Ferreira, the lawyer is going to appeal this judgement at the next court up the chain, in Vila Franca.
This outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease was the third most serious in the world, infecting 403 people and causing 14 deaths, yet no one is to blame.
Joaquim Ramos, president of the Vila Franca de Xira Legionella Victim Support Association, commented, “The association repudiates this court decision, which shows how our justice system works. We can only be outraged.”