Pittsburgh VA wants suit in Legionnaires' death tossed
The Pittsburgh VA wants a federal judge to toss a wrongful death lawsuit connected to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak, but lawyers for the widow of a World War II veteran say the government can't escape accountability for his death.
Greta M. Nicklas, 81, of Hampton sued the VA in August over the Nov. 23, 2012, death of William E. Nicklas, 87. His was one of five deaths the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied to a Legionnaires' outbreak from February 2011 to November 2012.
In a court filing on Friday, the VA generally denied liability for Nicklas' death.
It said federal law governing when people can sue the government bars his widow's claim.
VA spokesman David Cowgill could not be reached for comment on Monday, a federal holiday.
“You absolutely can sue facilities like VA hospitals, provided you comply with preliminary procedural steps,” said Harry S. Cohen, an attorney representing Greta Nicklas.
Cohen and Doug Price, another attorney representing Nicklas, question the VA's outright denial of allegations in the lawsuit. Those are based on sworn congressional testimony by the CDC and LiquiTech Environmental Solutions, an Illinois-based manufacturer of the VA's water treatment system.
Tory Schira, chief operating officer of LiquiTech, said some allegations in the lawsuit are wrong, such as a claim that the VA called the company to consult because of the outbreak.
“We provided a courtesy visit in December 2011 because we were visiting other customers in the area and stopped in,” he said. “At no time did they request it.”
The company knew the system probably wasn't operating properly before the visit, because the VA hadn't switched out electrodes in at least five years and typically they need replacing every two to three years, he said.
“That was the glaring indicator to us, prior to even arriving on site,” Schira said.
At that meeting, VA officials acknowledged the copper-silver treatment system wasn't operating properly and asked for advice, he said.
“We provided them with a proposal of recommendations and services that they then ignored,” Schira said.
The Nicklas complaint seeks $8 million for accusations of wrongful death, emotional distress and additional violations.
Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-recreation director settles age discrimination lawsuit against Pittsburgh
- 7 percent in Allegheny County allowed to carry concealed gun
- Group reports ethnically charged comments in Moroccan taxi driver’s Hazelwood shooting
- Pittsburgh region’s philanthropic sector at top of nation’s pack
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- Lane restrictions announced for portion of Route 28
- Merged United Way to reveal 5-year plan aimed at Western Pa. children
- School bus heavily damaged in Homewood fire
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh gets $500K estate gift
- Allegheny County Controller Wagner won’t appeal judge’s audit ruling
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield