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Pentair fined $193 million for cruise ship outbreak.

A New York jury found a filter manufacturer liable for a 1994 Legionnaires' cruise ship outbreak that killed one and sickened several.

The company, Pentair Inc., was hit with a landmark $193 million judgment. The outbreak was linked to defective filters.

The Golden Valley, Minn.-based manufacturer, must pay Celebrity Cruise Lines Inc. for out-of-pocket losses, lost profits and loss of business enterprise value related to the incident.

"We feel vindicated by this verdict," said Dan Hanrahan, president of Celebrity Cruises.

In a press release, Pentair Chairman/CEO Randall J. Hogan responded to the judgment with this statement: "We will pursue all available means to achieve reversal of this jury verdict."

The outbreak affected passengers on nine separate Celebrity cruises between New York and Bermuda. One person died, six were confirmed with Legionnaire's disease and 30 others displayed symptoms of pneumonia. Passenger claims were settled for more than $9 million, according to court documents.

An investigation blamed the outbreak on two defective swimming pool filters manufactured by Essef Corp., a firm acquired by Pentair in 1999. Trial evidence suggested the sand filters did not backwash properly, letting organic matter to grow where Legionella bacteria could proliferate. One Essef employee testified the filters were not suitable for spas.

According to court documents, Esset said the crew failed to use chemical disinfectants properly. The firm also argued the filters were altered post-sale and thus rendered less effective.

Legionnaires' disease primarily strikes people over 50, causing fever, chills, cough, headache, diarrhea and kidney malfunction. Though treatable with antibiotics, the illness' death rate can reach 15 percent among those ill enough to be hospitalized.

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Title Annotation:COURT JUDGMENT
Author:Mogharabi, Shabnam
Publication:Aquatics International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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