Widow Receives Settlement in Legionnaires' Cruise Case

February 23, 2010
Fred. Olsen's Black Watch

(8:45 a.m. EST) -- A woman whose spouse died after contracting Legionnaires' during an outbreak onboard Fred. Olsen's Black Watch nearly three years ago has been awarded a £70k settlement.

Audrey Heath, from Swanley, Kent, was on a July 2007 Lapland and St. Petersburg cruise with her husband, Robert Heath, when they heard about the health danger onboard, a statement from Russell Jones and Walker, the firm that represented Mrs. Heath, reads.

A number of passengers were affected by the illness while onboard, which prompted Fred. Olsen to end the cruise early; at the time, we reported that those who'd shown symptoms during the cruise were recovering.

However, Mr. Heath "began to feel unwell" after returning home, where he visited his local medical practitioner's office. Doctors performed no tests, according to the statement, and sent Mr. Heath home with antibiotics; he died at home the next day.

An inquest ruled that the cruise line exposed Mr. Heath to Legionnaires' Disease -- and that the two doctors he saw "failed to prescribe adequate medication, respond to his worsening condition or arrange for his admission to hospital." “Had Mr Heath received hospital care," the statement from the inquest continued, "on the balance of probabilities he would have survived."
A spokesperson for Russell Jones and Walker tells us that the settlement is a combined sum from the insurers of Fred. Olsen as well as Mr. Heath's two doctors on land.

She says that the three defendants agreed on this settlement privately so have not publicised the exact amounts of compensation that they issued, but can confirm that a portion of this was from Fred Olsen.

In a statement, Fred. Olsen confirmed the shared duties in compensating the victim's family, but added that "the line paid only a minority of the claim."

Though most cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics, Legionnaires' can be deadly -- and the elderly (usually 65 years of age or older) are most susceptible. Most Fred. Olsen customers are aged over 60.

Although extremely rare, cases of passengers with Legionnaire's diseases on cruises are not all together uncommon. In December 2009, we reported on the death of Tore Myhra, who began showing symptoms of Legionnaire's while he was aboard Liberty of the Seas. (It's unknown where he actually contracted the disease.) Myhra was a past Royal Caribbean captain, having headed up Monarch of the Seas in the 90's.

--by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor