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Lawsuit: Cat bite at Outrigger Canoe Club caused woman’s rare disease

Published: Nov. 3, 2019 at 1:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in September 2015, Leslie Mansfield and her husband Richard went to the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki to celebrate the end of her treatments for leukemia.

The California resident -- who writes cookbooks and owns a winery in Napa Valley -- was having lunch on club’s Hau Terrace restaurant when a cat jumped out of a nearby bush and attacked her foot.

“All of a sudden I felt this unbelievable sharp, excruciating bite," said Mansfield.

“Within a week it was a worse and the bite marks were black and it was really frightening.”

This is what Leslie Mansfield's foot looked like several weeks after she was bitten by a cat at...
This is what Leslie Mansfield's foot looked like several weeks after she was bitten by a cat at the Outrigger Canoe Club.(None)

A lawsuit filed in 2017 alleges the infections continued to get worse and that she began to develop lesions in her mouth, on her skin and throughout her body.

“The lesions in my mouth are so swollen around my tongue and cheeks I have deep crevasse-like cuts in the roof of my mouth,” she said.

Mansfield said she suffers deep lesions in her mouth due to her compromised immune system.
Mansfield said she suffers deep lesions in her mouth due to her compromised immune system.(None)

For most people a cat bite is not very serious but because Mansfield had recently undergone a stem cell transplant, she said the bite compromised her immune system.

The stem cells were donated from her brother. She said her doctors told her that when she got bit by the cat, those cells not only began attacking the pathogens introduced by the cat but they also started to attack her system.

The condition -- known as host versus graft disease -- is rare and incurable, Mansfield said.

“I can’t do anything anymore when I do have these flares. I’m absolutely exhausted and the flares are so painful,” she said.

Her lawsuit alleges that the Outrigger Canoe Club is responsible because it had harbored the cat.

“It spent its entire existence on those premises. It wasn’t a stray that lived somewhere else and came visiting. This was home for this cat," said Jim Bickerton, Mansfield’s attorney.

Bickerton said that under Hawaii law, the club is not only responsible for the cat bite but it’s also responsible for the subsequent damage to his client’s immune system.

“If someone has very brittle bones, for example, and they take a small fall," said Bickerton.

"You or I might just fracture a bone or not even have a fracture but they have fractures in 20 places. The person who caused that fall, owns all of the damage.”

The club did not respond to the specific allegations in the lawsuit due to the pending litigation. But in general, it said:

“The health, safety and well-being of all of our members, guests and staff are of primary importance to the Outrigger," a club spokeswoman said in an email.

Mansfield said she’s unable to work and her husband Richard Mansfield said the financial stress will force them to sell their winery.

The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial next August.

“It’s been a difficult journey ... It’s pretty much a given fact that her life is going to be shortened,” he said.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.