Organigram denies negligence in 2019 legionnaires’ disease outbreak

Organigram has denied negligence in court filings relating to the 2019 legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Moncton that left 16 people ill.

Twelve of those who became ill are suing the Moncton-based cannabis grower, alleging it failed to properly test and clean its cooling towers, resulting in high levels of legionella bacteria that caused the 2019 outbreak.

McInnes Cooper lawyer David Wallace filed statements of defence on behalf of the company in 11 of the cases on Aug. 31.

The filings acknowledge the company’s cooling towers had high bacteria counts “coinciding” with the 2019 outbreak, but deny wrongdoing and say the company isn’t responsible for harm to those who became ill.

The outbreak was announced in August 2019 and was declared over a month later. All 16 people who became ill with the severe form of pneumonia survived. Fifteen were hospitalised and some were placed in an induced coma.

Records obtained by CBC News through multiple access-to-information requests revealed that Public Health pinpointed cooling towers on Organigram’s facility as the origin of the outbreak.

The province and Organigram refused to publicly acknowledge that until December 2020.

“Organigram deeply regrets the impact of this incident on members of our community and their families last year,” the company said in a statement in December.

The towers are mechanical equipment with water and a fan that are part of the centralised cooling system for a variety of types of buildings.

Bacteria can grow and spread into the community on mist carried from the towers by the wind. The illness doesn’t spread person-to-person.

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