Fountain

The decorative fountain at Hawks Cay Resort has been shut down and cleaned since the local health department found dangerous bacteria inside.

DUCK KEY — A second woman who says she contracted Legionnaires’ disease after staying at Hawks Cay Resort is planning to file a lawsuit against the company after a fountain on its property was found to contain the bacteria that causes the infection.

Patrick Kelleher, a personal injury lawyer based in Naples, Florida, said his client stayed at the resort from June 30 to July 6 after which she “nearly died from the disease and while she was in the hospital she contracted COVID,” Kelleher said in an email. “Needless to say she is currently in poor health still recovering from everything.”

Kelleher said the woman, a resident of Naples, asked to remain anonymous at this time.

The attorney said the suit was being drafted last Thursday, adding that they were doing “preliminary research.” He planned to seek the maximum allowable sum in the court system. Civil cases must be seeking at least $30,000 to make it into circuit court.

Kelleher’s client stayed at Hawks Cay on the same dates as another woman, Marcia Blanar, of Maryland, who contracted Legionnaires’ as well. Blanar’s suit was filed in Monroe County Oct. 1, and asserts that the resort was negligible in its maintenance of the fountain, leading to Legionella bacteria developing in the water system. Blanar’s suit is for more than $30,000.

A spokesperson for Hawks Cay said of the Blanar suit that the incident was “immediately rectified” and that she could not comment on matters in litigation.

Legionella is a bacteria that grows in water and spreads through mist, causing a severe form of pneumonia in some cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 out of every 100 people who contract the disease die.

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County performed tests on the fountain subsequently and found the presence of Legionella. As a result, the fountain is now turned off and will be filled with rocks and sand. The fountain is located in an area of frequent gathering at the resort and had chairs around it where people sat. The Blanar suit said she also became “extremely ill” as a result of the infection.

James Rachal, environmental manager for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, said the department does not have any requirements that businesses test for Legionella on their premises, but that “the health department does recommend all facilities consider implementing a water management program in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

Asked if he had the number of known Legionnaires’ cases that have stemmed from the fountain at Hawk’s Cay, Rachal said the investigation is covered by confidentiality provisions under the law, and he could not discuss it.