In 2013, Shawn Gallen, a vending machine servicer, was exposed to droplets of water contaminated with Legionnaires’ bacteria, and the incident left him severely disabled.
The Commonwealth Court panel in Pennsylvania upheld Mr. Gallen’s benefit award in late March, siding with the Workers Compensation Appeal Board that stated the exposure to Legionnaires’ bacteria left Mr. Gallen with brain damage, and the exposure was work-related.
Upon exposure, Mr. Gallen was in a coma within days. He is currently confined to a wheelchair, requires constant care, and cannot speak properly.
Although Nestle presented an industrial hygienist who said Legionnaires’ bacteria is unlikely to grow inside a vending machine, he did not actually test any vending machines to see if the bacteria were present. On the other hand, Mr. Gallen’s doctor testified that vending machines are good incubators for the bacteria, and Mr. Gallen’s exposure could only be work-related.
Close to the time Mr. Gallen was infected, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had issued a warning that there was a spike in Legionnaires’ cases around the state.