A class action lawsuit has been filed in the state of New York, potentially involving as many as 2,700 people who allegedly were sickened from a 2008 norovirus outbreak at the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterparkin Queensbury.
This lawsuit follows an ongoing case involving a 2005 cryptosporidium outbreak at a New York spraypark, considered the first aquatics-related class action.
Operators at the Queensbury facility “failed to implement, monitor and ensure proper sanitary conditions and safeguards at the park, including a failure to properly train their employees and negligently allowing sick food service workers to continue working,” alleges a press release from Dreyer Boyajian, LLP, the firm representing the plaintiffs. It’s unclear if recreational water was a carrier of the pathogen.
“The facility remained opened during the entire month despite reports of gastrointestinal illness by guests between March 3 and March 28, 2008, which included over 500 guests reporting illness from 32 counties in New York state, eight other states, and Canada. The number of reports peaked on March 16, when 100 persons reported illness,” said James R. Peluso, Esq., an attorney with Dreyer Boyajian, LLP.
The New York State Department of Health said testing of persons who reported illness confirmed a norovirus. Noroviruses cause acute gastroenteritis, and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and weakness.
Health officials can’t say what role the waterpark played in the outbreak, but norovirus can be transmitted through recreational water that is not properly maintained with recommended levels of free chlorine. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionreported five norovirus-related RWI outbreaks in the September 2011 Morbidity and Mortality Report.
However, “no violations of New York state Sanitary Code for Swimming Pools or Recreational Aquatic Spraygrounds were found,” said Peter Constantakes, a representative of the NYSDOH Public Affairs Group.
It was the 2005 cryptosporidium outbreak that spurred additions to that code, and the outcome of the related class action lawsuit is still pending.
“The implications of these two class actions are that owners and operators of recreational water facilities should consult with professionals in recreational water design, maintenance and operation, as well as professionals in public health and safety management, prior to opening their doors to the public,” Peluso said. “[This is] to ensure that the design, construction, operation, maintenance and management of their facilities have addressed the risk of recreational water illness, and that appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent and mitigate the risks associated with RWI.”
Great Escape Lodge had no comment on the litigation, but communications manager Rebecca Close did say “the safety and well-being of our guests is always our top priority and, in fact, it has never been determined that this illness originated at our property.”