The first lawsuits claiming compensation for the deaths and misery caused by last November’s outbreak of legionella in the industrial northern town of Vila Franca de Xira are being presented this week, with claims ranging from requests for civil indemnity to full-blown “queixa-crimes” (criminal complaints).
One of the first to present a claim will be Natália Rocha, whose partner António was one of the 13 who died as a result of the deadly outbreak.
The infection that propagated in cooling towers of a number of factories in Vila Franca – particularly those of fertiliser manufacturer Adubos de Portugal – was “a crime too serious to go unpunished”, Rocha told reporters.
Her partner “bore no responsibility for the illness that killed him – but other people do, and they should be punished”, she said.
Also presenting suits are “survivors” among the 375 people worst-affected.
Cristina Monteiro told reporters that six months after being declared “recovered”, she is still not back to normal.
Fellow victim Alexandra Gouveia is suing for loss of business, as the shop she runs had to be closed for weeks as she battled towards recovery.
After the outbreak, Vila Franca’s lawyers association offered victims legal free support. Lawyer Andreia Figueiredo told O Mirante local paper that the cases will “draw attention to a section of law that has not this far been very valued, or worked on – that is “environmental law”.
“We could be talking about payments sufficient (in size) to bring a company to financial ruin.”