[StBernard] Family of St. Bernard man who died from brain-eating amoeba settles federal lawsuit

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Oct 29 19:34:30 EDT 2013

Family of St. Bernard man who died from brain-eating amoeba settles federal
Print The Associated Press By The Associated Press
on October 29, 2013 at 9:57 AM

The parents of a St. Bernard Parish man whose death in 2011 was linked to a
rare brain-eating amoeba have settled their lawsuit against the
manufacturers of two household devices that they blamed for their son's
deadly infection. Settlement terms weren't disclosed in a federal judge's
order that dismissed the wrongful death suit on Oct. 15.

Last year, Jeffrey Cusimano's parents sued NeilMed Pharmaceuticals Inc.,
maker of a "neti pot" that the 28-year-old used to clean his sinuses with
water. They also sued Rheem Manufacturing Co., which made a water heater in
his home.

Their suit claims defects in both devices allowed Cusimano to become
infected by Naegleria fowleri, a microscopic organism that recently was
found in St. Bernard Parish's water system.

State health officials linked the same amoeba to the August 2013 death of a
4-year-old boy from Mississippi who was visiting a home in St. Bernard
Parish. Test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention confirmed that Naegleria fowleri was found in the water supplies
in St. Bernard Parish and part of DeSoto Parish, where the amoeba also
caused the death of a 51-year-old woman in 2011.

A total of 32 infections linked to the amoeba were reported in the U.S.
between 2001 and 2010.

Although their case against the companies has been resolved, Patrice and
Nunzio Cusimano filed a separate wrongful death suit against St. Bernard
Parish in a state court earlier this month. Patrice Cusimano declined to be
interviewed on Friday.

The state says swimming or diving in freshwater lakes and rivers is the most
common way to be exposed to the deadly amoeba. Infections from other
sources, such as heated tap water and swimming pool water that is
inadequately chlorinated, are rare.

Dr. Thomas Moore, a physician who treated Jeffrey Cusimano, testified that
he believed Cusimano's infection was caused by his use of the neti pot with
tap water.

But in a court filing earlier this year, lawyers for NeilMed said Jeffrey
Cusimano's parents couldn't prove that his use of the neti pot caused his
death on June 7, 2011. Lab tests on his neti pot didn't find any traces of
the amoeba, they said.

"Although the events leading up to Jeffrey Cusimano's death are tragic,
NeilMed cannot be held responsible without evidence proving that a defect in
its product was the proximate cause of the plaintiffs' damages," they wrote.

Tests found the amoeba in the water heater of the family's home, but Rheem
attorneys said the product wasn't designed to sterilize water.

"If bacteria, amoeba or other potentially harmful organisms enter the water
heater, then after heating they will be 'delivered' to the end user," they

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