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VA settles 3 more Legionnaires' cases

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has settled three more claims related to the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

Cheryl Ann Evans sued the VA in April over the Jan. 30, 2013, death of her husband, Brant James Evans, 58, of Freedom. The Marine veteran contracted the disease in summer 2011 while being treated for lung cancer at the University Drive hospital in Oakland, the lawsuit says.

Army veteran Edward Stockley, 64, of Baldwin Borough and his wife, Paula, sued the VA in March. He contracted the disease at the hospital in November 2011. The Vietnam veteran used the hospital's water fountains while filling out forms and undergoing physicals to become a volunteer, according to the lawsuit.

Sandy Riley sued the VA in May over the July 4, 2012, death of her brother, Lloyd Mitchell Wanstreet, 65, of Jeannette. The Navy veteran contracted the disease while being treated for dehydration and a leg infection in June 2012 at the hospital, the lawsuit says.

The VA's response to the Evans and Riley lawsuits contained routine denials of liability but didn't contest the specific claims related to the relatives.

The response to the Stockleys insisted they couldn't seek recovery with a lawsuit because as an employee, even an unpaid volunteer, his contraction of the disease represented a work-related injury covered by federal workers' compensation laws.

A federal mediator filed reports in all three cases saying they had been resolved during mediation sessions on Wednesday. The reports don't provide any details on the settlements.

A Justice Department spokesman and Douglas Price, the attorney for Evans and the Stockleys, could not be reached for comment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in facilities in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System from February 2011 to November 2012. The CDC traced the problem to bacteria-contaminated water at the Oakland and O'Hara campuses.

The VA has settled at least five other claims by veterans or their survivors for the outbreak that sickened at least 22 and killed at least six.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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