Another vet sues VA over Legionella outbreak

The Pittsburgh VA’s University Drive campus.


By RICH LORD | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (MCT) | Published: May 10, 2014

A Pine man who is part of a family with a decorated history of military service sued the federal government Friday over his two and a half years of suffering following the Legionella outbreak at the Veterans Administration's Oakland facility.

Gerald N. Caskey, who turns 72 Sunday, and his wife, Debra A. Caskey, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, seeking damages. It joins a flotilla of lawsuits related to the outbreak at the University Drive facility.

Legionella was first noted in the VA hospital's water system in 2011. Families of deceased and sickened patients have said that VA officials were slow to alert users and to address the problem.

According to the lawsuit, in October of that year, Rev. Caskey and his wife went to the hospital to pick up medicine. While waiting for hours, he ate and drank and used the bathrooms and water fountains there. During the week that followed, he developed a fever and chills, and coughed up blood, and was soon diagnosed with pneumonia, according to the complaint. Tests of his urine conducted at the VA were positive for Legionella, the lawsuit indicated.

The case is unusual among those spurred by the Legionella outbreak in that it alleges infection during a relatively short visit, rather than an in-patient stay.

Plaintiff's attorney Douglas Price wrote that "while the pneumonia has resolved, there are lingering issues of fatigue, shortness of breath and the risk for additional pneumonias following the Legionella pneumonia which he contracted in October of 2011."

Rev. Caskey, according to the lawsuit, was born in Farmerville, La., and joined the Army as a chaplain's assistant at 30 years of age. He was eventually assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Stuttgart, Germany, where he had a top-secret clearance, according to the lawsuit. He reached the rank of sergeant first class. Mrs. Caskey was an Army photographer, according to the lawsuit.

Rev. Caskey retired in 1996 and began getting his medical treatment at the VA hospital.

One of the Caskeys' sons, Joseph, a Marine, died following a 2010 improvised explosive device attack during service in Helmand province in Afghanistan, according to the complaint. Another son, Joshua, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury due to a suicide bombing in Iraq, where he served in the Marines, according to the complaint. Another son, Jeremy, serves in the Air Force.

The family was among scores of military clans honored in 2012 at a Steelers home game. Also that year, volunteers remodeled Sgt. Joshua Caskey's Cranberry home, free of charge, to accommodate his injuries.

Neither Mr. Price nor Mr. Caskey could be reached for comment Saturday morning. Spokespersons for the Veterans Administration and the Department of Justice, which defends lawsuits filed against the federal government, were not immediately responsive to inquiries.


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