Port Lympne hotel faces lawsuit after two guests contracted Legionnaires' in 2021

08 February 2023 by
Port Lympne hotel faces lawsuit after two guests contracted Legionnaires' in 2021

The Port Lympne hotel in Hythe, Kent, is facing legal action after two guests contracted Legionnaires' Disease following their stay at the eight-bedroom, four-star hotel.

Following two cases linked to the property in June 2021, public health officials' water sampling found legionella bacteria onsite and, at the time, the hotel was advised to close.

The district council's environmental health team worked with the hotel's management to ensure they had adequate control measures in place before agreeing the hotel could reopen.

However, one of the guests, a teacher who spent several days in hospital due to his illness, has instructed legal firm Irwin Mitchell to seek funds towards rehabilitation.

Gary McClellan, 68, arranged an overnight stay at the hotel, which sits at the top of the Port Lympne wildlife park, on 18-19 June 2021. The semi-retired assistant head teacher began to experience flu-like symptoms on 22 June, including aches and pains and dehydration. His symptoms became worse over the following days, and included chronic diarrhoea, bright orange urine, confusion, shortness of breath and sweating.

He was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital, in Margate on 28 June and spent several days in the intensive care unit before being discharged on 8 July. He was due to return to work on 1 September on a full-time basis, but continued ill health meant he was only able to return for two days a week some months later.

McClellan said: "I started to feel ill not long after I returned home from the hotel, but at first put it down to flu. The time I spent in hospital was a blur, but I did realise that whatever was wrong with me was serious, and I was determined to fight for my life.

"It was such a frightening experience and, in many ways, I'm glad to still be here to talk about it, but months down the line, it's clear my life is not the same and I fear that it will never be the same again.

"I was due to return to work full time. Instead of working full time, I could only manage a couple of days a week, and as of June 2022, made the decision to fully retire from a career that I loved. It's a great sadness that my teaching career has been forced to end prematurely and in this way…

"Now I want answers on what happened, for my own peace of mind and to draw a line under what has been a nightmare for me and the whole family."

Sarita Sharma, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing McClellan and his family, said: "We're determined to help Gary and his family find the answers they need following his terrible experience which continues to have a massive impact on his life. However, it's also important to remind guests and hotel owners of the very real dangers of Legionnaires' disease – a disease that can prove fatal. There are strict guidelines in place to help control the development of the bacteria that causes the disease, and it is important these are followed by all institutions.

"If during the course of our investigations failings in health and safety procedures are found, it's vital that lessons are learned so others don't have to go through what Gary has."

Irwin Mitchell has also been instructed by the second guest, who was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease after staying at the hotel in June 2021. The man, in his 60s, was also hospitalised and claims to still be suffering from the effects of the disease.

The Caterer has contacted the Aspinall Foundation, which owns the hotel, for comment.

Legionnaires' disease is a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection caused by legionella bacteria. It's usually caught by breathing in droplets of contaminated water.

Elaine Brown, 69, from Merseyside died in 2017 after suffering a stroke as a result of Legionnaires' disease after she stayed at the Feathers hotel in Ludlow, Shropshire. The hotel subsequently fell into administration and was bought by Crest Hotels, which gave the property a full refurbishment.

Photo: Country Life

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