Integrated Risk Management: Legionnaires’ Disease and Infection by Other Opportunistic Premise Plumbing Pathogens (OPPPs)

What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe, sometimes deadly pneumonia caused by a bacterium called Legionella. Reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease have increased significantly since 2000. Infections by other clinically significant waterborne pathogens, including but not limited to Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Stenotrophomonas, nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), and Fusarium, have also increased dramatically. Legionella and these other environmental-source pathogens are collectively called Opportunistic Premise Plumbing Pathogens (OPPPs). Recent developments have resulted in a new, higher standard of care for building owners and managers to help prevent the spread of these pathogens. Attention has focused primarily on Legionnaires’ disease, because it’s the only OPPP infection that legally must be reported, but other OPPP infections are gaining prominence.

Legionnaires’ disease results from inhalation or aspiration of Legionella-contaminated water droplets often associated with building water systems, including cooling towers and plumbing. Legionella and OPPs are found throughout the natural environment in relatively low concentrations.

Under certain operating conditions, building water systems serve as incubators, promoting growth of Legionella and other OPPPs to dangerously high concentrations. When Legionella-contaminated aerosols are released from a building water system into the environment, the droplets can be inhaled and cause infection.

As reported Legionella infections have increased, so have the number of lawsuits and other actions (“claims”). In recognition of the growing number of claims made asserting liability for illnesses related to exposure to OPPPs, insurance companies have heightened sensitivity because of the increasingly large settlements that can result from OPPP-associated illness or death. The problems faced by facility owners and managers are amplified by the fact that OPPP claims are, in most cases, excluded from coverage, so the facility may have to bear catastrophic, uninsured losses. Although many environmental policies provide some coverage for Legionella, the only policy that provides comprehensive, affirmative, primary coverage for injury resulting from OPPPs (including Legionella) is the Great American OPPP insurance policy.

With the increase in reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease (and illnesses caused by other OPPPs) and the accompanying negative media exposure, environmental insurers are implementing increasingly stringent underwriting criteria.

As insurance coverage is restricted, businesses must adopt robust strategies to demonstrate due care to avoid exposure to OPPPs. The development and implementation of water management programs can demonstrate due care; an effective water management program can reduce the risk of disease and injury associated with building water systems. An effective, comprehensive water management program should focus on implementing and documenting sustainable, proven practices for preventing infection by Legionella and other clinically significant environmental-source pathogens in the context of other plumbing-associated risks such as from scalding and lead poisoning.

Great American Insurance Group and VERTEX have teamed to offer an integrated risk management program that combines comprehensive, sustainable, state-of-the-art water management programs with primary insurance that covers risks associated with Legionnaires’ disease and other plumbing associated infections. Documented implementation of VERTEX water management programs demonstrates due care and mitigates risk, while Great American insurance policies provide third-party defense and indemnity should any claims arise. The integrated program is unique in its ability to identify, control and mitigate the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other plumbing associated infections, and to provide comprehensive primary insurance coverage.

Purpose-built Insurance

Coverage for response, recovery, defense and third-party claims of bodily injury resulting from OPPPs (including Legionella) is provided by a custom-crafted insurance policy. As a result of our integrated program approach, the premiums charged can be far below those typical for a risk of this nature.

  • Program Limits: Up to $1.5 million for each pollution condition with higher limits available
  • Term: One year
  • Premium: $1,000 minimum (single-year policy)
  • Locations: U.S. and Canada

Great American Insurance Company is an A.M. Best “A+” (Superior) rated carrier with a dynamic, innovative environmental insurance division.

Contact your underwriter or any of our offices to further discuss how we can best protect your clients including hospitals, nursing homes, hotels and more!

Dan Furman Portrait

Dan Furman Signature
Daniel L. Furman

Daniel L. Furman manages field activities and project administration for The Vertex Companies, Inc. (VERTEX) building water systems practice. Mr. Furman oversees all projects commencing with the scoping and development, and the implementation of comprehensive, sustainable programs to prevent waterborne illnesses associated with building water systems such as those caused by Non-Tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM), Pseudomonas, Lead, and Legionella (Legionnaires' disease).

Mr. Furman holds a BBA in Legal Studies, with a minor in Ecosystem Science & Policy, from the University of Miami School of Business Administration and is pursuing a Master of Science in Enterprise Risk Management through Columbia University.


Eric McCabe
Eric McCabe Signature
Eric McCabe, National Underwriting Director
Great American Environmental Division

Eric McCabe serves as Divisional Senior Vice President and National Underwriting Director for Great American’s Environmental Division. In his role, he oversees underwriting operations for all lines of insurance products. His background involves extensive legal counseling as well as complex commercial and defense litigation practices. Along with accumulated over 20 years working within the insurance field, Eric a Juris Doctorate from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. He is based out of our New York, NY office.