Widow plans to sue Airbnb for £1.2million after her husband, 45, died from Legionnaires’ Disease


The Daily Mail has reported that a widow plans to sue Airbnb for £1.2million after her husband, 45, died from Legionnaires’ Disease caught while using a hot tub in a rented Malta holiday home.

Hot tub

Sandra Bermingham’s husband Paul died following a trip to Malta in 2015/16. The couple and their two children stayed in an Airbnb in Malta with their children and the apartment featured a hot tub which Mrs Bermingham insists was dangerous. Mrs Bermingham believes her husband picked up Legionnaires disease after using the hot tub.

The Daily Mail reports that “Sandra Bermingham has set up a crowdfunding page to help pay legal fees and continue her six-year fight for compensation against the US-owned company. Her husband Paul died days after returning from a Christmas holiday at a farmhouse they had rented in Gozo, Malta, in 2016 from the popular site”.

“The 45-year-old father of two contracted Legionnaires disease from contaminated water said to come from the property’s hot tub. Sandra has been battling since 2016 – but the £4bn company has repeatedly refused to accept any liability for her husband’s death”.

Sandra said: ‘They have not shown any aftercare or concern for people who rent homes through their site. ‘All they are interested in is getting money from bookings. It has left me speechless how ruthless they are and uncaring.’

Construction worker Paul, Sandra, and their two children Darragh, 10, and Kate, 12, had booked a two-week stay with Airbnb over Christmas in 2015.

Sandra said Paul only used the hot tub once for a matter of seconds as he found the water too cold.

The children suffered no ill effects, but days after returning to their home in Islington, North London, Paul fell ill.

Hot tub maintenance

All hot tubs can potentially grow Legionella if control measures are not taken. It is imperative that if you own or manage a property or business used by the public you must monitor and maintain proper disinfectant residuals and pH, even when not used.

Health and Safety Executive Guidance

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) say

“Spa-pool systems are increasingly popular and can be found in a variety of sizes and settings. They are known by various names including hot spas, hot tubs, whirlpool spas and portable spas. Such systems pose a reasonably foreseeable risk as they are a recognised source of diseases caused by infectious agents including the organism that causes legionnaires’ disease, primarily Legionella pneumophila. There have been several outbreaks linked to spa-pool systems in leisure centres, hotels, holiday homes, on cruise ships and on display”.

You can read the complete guidance from the HSE here.

What is Legionnaires’ Disease and Pontiac Fever?

According to the NHS definition, Legionnaires’ Disease is a lung infection you can get from inhaling water droplets from things like air conditioning or hot tubs containing the Legionella bacteria. It’s an uncommon disease – and a form of atypical pneumonia – but can be very serious.

Pontiac fever is a milder flu-like illness caused by similar exposure to the Legionella bacteria found in water.

The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in freshwater (though you won’t usually get the disease from places like ponds, lakes, and rivers.

It can, however, contaminate hot water tanks and cooling towers, as well as humidifiers, spa pools, and taps and showers that are not used often, and can be aspirated through contaminated water into the human lungs.

It typically won’t spread directly between people; most people exposed don’t become infected.

Prevention comes in the form of making sure such water systems are well maintained. We recommend training your staff on the reasons to keep water safe including the dangers of Legionella and why it is important to regularly maintain such items to prevent Legionnaires’ Disease.


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