A resident of Rosemont Court where 14 seniors have fallen ill over the past year with Legionnaires’ disease sued the property management company Thursday, saying it enabled unsafe living conditions at the senior affordable housing complex in North Portland.
Plaintiff Janice Lopez, 66, fell ill with Legionnaires’ disease on Sept. 27, as detailed by Oregon Public Broadcasting in a story published Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Michael Fuller in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges Income Property Management was aware of the unsafe living conditions and did not take appropriate action to improve those conditions for Lopez. The lawsuit alleges that at one point, Lopez’s apartment flooded and that Income did not take appropriate measures to reduce harm caused by the flooding or the increased moisture in the air.
“As plaintiff’s landlord, defendant was responsible to maintain plaintiff’s dwelling unit in a safe and habitable condition. Over the past year, defendant failed to maintain plaintiff’s dwelling unit in a safe and habitable condition by failing to timely and adequately remediate Legionella,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendant’s negligent repairs to the water system caused plaintiff’s dwelling unit to flood, filling her apartment with stagnant and standing water. As a result, plaintiff had to be hospitalized for Legionnaires’ disease, and unnecessarily experienced pain and discomfort in her twilight years.”
As OPB reported, seniors at the affordable living home have struggled to relocate due to a tight affordable housing market and steep rates.
The Multnomah County Health Department has tried without success to find the source of the outbreak since January, when the first case of the disease emerged. Fourteen seniors in total have fallen ill with the disease, including one who died.
Residents were alerted to the most recent case of the disease on Oct. 1 by county health authorities. The last case prior to that occurred six months ago in June. Northwest Housing Alternatives, the building owner, and the health department have consistently urged residents to relocate permanently, but so far few have.
Lopez tells WW that after the first cases of the disease emerged in January, she was put up in a Red Lion Hotel for several weeks as the building manager and county officials tried to figure out the source of the outbreak. When she came back to the building, she says, her apartment on the fourth floor had flooded.
“They changed the pipes in the hot water room, and tore out some sheetrock around my fridge, pushed my furniture up against the south wall, put some fans in, left the door open and said it was done,” Lopez says, who’s now recovering from the disease. “I’m worn out, I’m tired, but I guess I’m feeling better.”
Lopez is seeking up to $45,000 in economic damages and no more than $200,000 in noneconomic damages and is requesting a trial by jury.
“Defendant knew or should have known of the unsafe conditions at plaintiff’s dwelling unit because defendant or their agents inspected the premises prior to and during plaintiff’s tenancy and because defendant received various notices of the unsafe conditions, and was aware that its ongoing failure to provide a safe water supply to the Rosemont Court tenants has killed one senior and sickened over a dozen others with Legionnaires’ disease,” the lawsuit alleges.
Income Property Management did not immediately respond to WW’s request for comment.