Attorney representing family of Legionnaires’ victim: ‘The disease is highly preventable’

Widow of Ruben Gutierrez retains Minneapolis attorney
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Published: Jan. 22, 2020 at 7:00 PM CST
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TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - A Minneapolis attorney is representing the widow of a Smith County man who died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease.

Attorney Elliot Olsen has been retained by Susan Gutierrez, whose husband died after he got the disease in late September 2019.

Gutierrez was one of several confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease reported by the Northeast Texas Public Health District in the fall of 2019. The common link between the eight cases was that the victims were at the East Texas State Fair held from Sept. 20-29 in Tyler. According to friends, Gutierrez was at the fair registering people to vote at a booth inside of Harvey Hall.

Gutierrez, 69, died Nov. 8 after being hospitalized for most of October.

“There’s no easy way to put it – Mr. Gutierrez’s final days were horrific,” Olsen said. “No one should have to go through what he and his family endured last October.”

Olsen considers Legionnaires’ disease as an area of expertise. He said he’s involved in similar cases in New York City, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin.

“The disease is highly preventable,” Olsen said. “If someone is keeping a close eye on the water supply, the disease can be prevented. It’s all about stopping the bacteria from proliferating. So I think that’s the biggest message. This is highly preventable.”

Olsen said his first steps will be looking through data from NET Health. At some point, he’ll also bring in his own epidemiologist.

“What I’d be looking to do for the family is regain money to compensate them for the loss of emotional support and companionship given to them by Mr. Gutierrez," Olsen said.

According to Olsen, at least one other person who contracted the disease and visited the fair has contacted him. He has not been retained as of yet.

Related stories:

Harvey Hall Convention Center reopens, final test results still pending

City of Tyler explains closure of Harvey Hall following Legionnaires’ outbreak

CDC finds Legionella bacteria in Harvey Hall water samples, City says it’s not the same strain that caused outbreak

Two known Legionnaires’ patients were in the same part of Harvey Hall

NET Health: Person with confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease dies

Health officials: Cases of Legionnaires’ disease possibly connected to East Texas State Fair

‘Peacemaker’ Gutierrez’ death devastating to community, friend says

Legionnaires’ cases are soaring in the US; experts call for stronger policies to fight the disease

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