Tiny Amoeba Leads To Large Wrongful Death Settlement


When someone fails in his or her duty to maintain a safe environment for others, it can lead to devastating consequences. In 2013, a young boy from Mississippi died as a result of being infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba after he came in contact with infected water in Violet, Louisiana. Two years later, the family has settled with the people they felt were responsible for creating the conditions that caused the infection. Here's more information about the case and what is required to win a wrongful death lawsuit involving biological organisms.

Questionable Maintenance

According to available information, the boy was playing on a backyard water slide at a private residence when he came in contact with the Naegleria fowleri amoeba, a rare organism that enters the brain through the nose and begins eating away at the organ. It prefers warm water and has been known to show up in untreated swimming pools, spas, and well and municipal water.

It cannot survive in water that has been adequately chlorinated, and public health experts claimed the chlorine levels at four of the area's water supply sites were too low to sufficiently get rid of the organism. The boy's parents allege the low chlorine levels were caused by a faulty valve on the ammonia tank, and that officials knew about the problem and failed to fix it or inform residents about the issue.

The city has denied any wrongdoing, but has settled the case with the family. Although the amount of money the case was settled for is unknown, the family was suing for over $75,000 in damages. According to the lawsuit, hospital expenses alone amounted to $330,000, but it's unknown if the family had to pay that much out of pocket.

Wrongful Death and Microorganisms

Winning a wrongful death case involving infections and disease can be challenging because bacteria and other microorganisms are everywhere, including on the human body. You'll have to show that the person got the infection or disease as the result of the defendant's actions (or lack of action) and not from other activities or venues.

In the previously mentioned case, it appeared a simple matter to connect the amoeba to the city's water supply because other people in the area had been killed by the same bug plus the water was not adequately disinfected. However, in cases like the Legionnaire's disease outbreak in New York City where multiple sites were found to have harmful bacteria that were making everyone sick, it can be difficult to pinpoint the source. Sometimes matching the DNA of organisms can help as can eliminating all other possible sources of infection (e.g. showing other water supplies the person came in contact with weren't contaminated).

In addition to that, you'll need to prove:

  • The defendant had a duty of care to prevent the infection
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • The defendant's breach lead to the person's injury and eventual death

If your loved one died because of someone's negligence or failure to take proper action, it's essential that you discuss your case with a personal injury attorney, such as Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel. The lawyer can guide you on the best way to proceed so you get the outcome you want. 


25 August 2015

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