A class action on behalf of nearly 1,500 Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic has been filed in New York federal district court against the United Nations and its subsidiary, the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, and officers.
Relatives of a Haitian couple who died from cholera in Haiti in 2010 filed the complaint on March 11 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Read the complaint here.
The plaintiffs—Marie, Carmen, Sane, and Maggie Laventure, who are Haitians living in the United States—contend that their parents cooked, bathed and washed with river water contaminated by cholera-infected human waste from a nearby camp of U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal.
The suit said that although Nepal was in the midst of a cholera outbreak, the U.N. failed to screen any of the Nepalese peacekeepers for the disease before being sent to earthquake-stricken Haiti.
In addition to causing the cholera outbreak by their “negligent, reckless and tortious conduct,” the defendants illegally sought to cover up their actions, according to the suit.
“Defendants recklessly failed to take remedial steps necessary to contain the outbreak of cholera, willfully delayed investigation into the outbreak, and obscured discovery of the outbreak’s source,” the lawsuit said.
The plaintiffs want the court to declare that “the United Nations is not immune from liability for the deaths it caused, and that the UN must abide by the claims process it agreed to set up to compensate for injuries it caused in Haiti.”
The suit seeks compensation for families of the victims of the deadly epidemic that killed more than 9,000 Haitians and sickened more than 700,000 since 2010. It also seeks funding for sanitation and clean water in Haiti.
The Haitian government, in collaboration with U.N. agencies, estimated it will take 10 years and cost $2.2 billion to “eliminate the cholera that the U.N. brought to Haiti,” the suit states.
Laura Castro is a contributing writer for The National Law Journal.