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72 guests seeking $5M in lawsuit against Whitby, Ont. spa after staph contamination

Thermea Nordic Spa in Whitby, Ont., can be seen above. (thermeawhitby/Instagram) Thermea Nordic Spa in Whitby, Ont., can be seen above. (thermeawhitby/Instagram)
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Seventy-two plaintiffs are now named in a civil lawsuit seeking $5 million from Thermëa Spa Village in Whitby, Ont. after an outbreak of staphylococcus (staph) in one of the facility's saltwater pools.

A statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was served to the spa Wednesday morning, personal injury lawyer Justin Linden confirmed to CTV News Toronto. In it, 11 defendants are named, including Groupe Nordik, the Regional Municipality of Durham, and unidentified inspectors and maintenance workers.

The plaintiffs allege they've suffered "immediate adverse health effects" including but not limited to severe skin rashes, ear infections, and loss of hearing after using the spa's pools.

Amid the allegations, the plaintiffs argue the spa’s pool facilities – specifically the Källa saltwater pool – were not ready to open to the public on Oct. 6, and that the company was too slow to close the pools following reports of illness. The group is also alleging the spa "negligently failed to disclose this information to patrons and in fact, withheld said information from them to their detriment."

Together, they're seeking a total of $5,000,000 in damages from the spa.

In response, a spokesperson for Groupe Nordik tells CTV News Toronto it has been committed to “complete transparency” with both its visitors and the public.

“While we deny the allegations in the claim against Thermëa spa village in Whitby, we intend to fully participate in the litigation process,” the emailed statement reads.

REPORTS OF ILLNESS ON OPENING WEEK

The first complaint made to Durham Public Health against the spa came just four days after it opened, on Oct. 10, a spokesperson confirmed to CTV News Toronto.

On Oct. 14, the public health agency issued notice the pools had been closed after the results of an inspection found a “health hazard” in the water. Nearly a week later, on Oct. 20, Martin Paquette, the spa’s CEO, confirmed that staphylococcus (staph) and pseudomonas were found in the Källa saltwater pool.

The plaintiffs allege the time it took management to close the spa down was negligent, and that they should have taken action as soon as widespread illness was reported.

Plaintiffs are also alleging the spa's facilities were not "in working condition," and that they failed to perform proper inspections.

Results of an internal audit, published on Nov. 2 as part of Thermëa Spa's "commitment to transparency," claims there were three contributing factors that led to the contamination, including a broken valve in the pool’s bromine erosion system and a malfunction with the pool’s ultraviolet disinfectant system.

‘EXTREMELY’ PAINFUL

CTV News Toronto spoke with three of the listed plaintiffs on the claim, who explained in detail the various symptoms they say they contracted following their spa day.

Nicole Warren says she went to the spa on Oct. 9 for a friend’s belated birthday, and came home with little red bumps that “looked like bites.”

The rash spread from the back of her thigh to her stomach and all the way up to her breast, back, and armpit.

Handout from Nicole Warren.

“It’s painful, even to this day,” she said on Oct. 25.

Kamilah Headley says she started to feel shooting pain down her neck following her visit. Headley says she suffered an “extremely” painful ear infection she had never experienced before.

“I’ve been on painkillers that I’ve never had in my entire life – very strong painkillers,” she said, later adding she had to miss out on work.

Jessica McKaye echoed similar symptoms following her visit, telling CTV News Toronto that on top of contracting a weeks-long ear infection, large lumps formed on her body and she felt like she had the flu.

“I’m weak. I have a fever,” McKaye said, adding she took two COVID-19 rapid tests to be safe. “I have no idea what’s happening.”

A spokesperson for Durham Region Health Department told CTV News Toronto in an email that they are unable to provide any further updates or information at this time due to the active investigation.

“I’m not here [because] I want to get attention or I want to get rich off this, or anything like that,” Headley said.

“The hundreds of dollars that I spent to go to the spa just to get sick, I want that covered because I’m pissed off about that aspect. 

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