In December 2019 a class action lawsuit was filed against a Seattle, Washington children’s hospital alleging the hospital knew of a dangerous mold infestation for years but “engaged in a cover-up.” The lawsuit alleges the mold sickened many patients and caused the deaths of six children, including a six month old baby. The infant underwent three open heart surgeries at the hospital and developed an infection after the third surgery. The lawsuit alleges the hospital knew mold had been detected in its operating rooms.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Aspergillus is a common mold that most people breathe every day without getting sick. However, when someone has a weakened immune system, there is a high risk of developing an infection. The hospital revealed that since 2001, 14 patients have developed surgical site infections from Aspergillus. Six died. In May 2019 the hospital finally closed down its operating rooms.
In 2005, one family sued the hospital for an Aspergillus infection, but the hospital confidentially settled in 2008, and did nothing to remediate the mold problem. In the early 2000’s a professional engineering consultant alerted the hospital to concerns about its air-handling system including failure to test equipment, water leaks, plugged screens, live and dead birds in fan shafts and “overall filthy condition of all air-handling units.” Even the hospital’s own lead engineer at the time identified bird debris and stated the units were “rotting out.” Yet, the hospital did nothing. While they knew of multiple Aspergillus infections, the hospital’s CEO stated they believed the infections were “isolated,” but they now “believe that these infections were likely caused by the air handling system that serve our operating rooms.”