Little Rock, AR (Law Firm Newswire) Janury 21, 2015 — The repercussions of sending home the first U.S. Ebola victim in the U.S. continue to spread, even months after his death.
“While Ebola is not making as many frightening headlines as it was when the epidemic first got underway, its presence has left a distinct mark on the U.S. health care system,” says Michael Smith, an Arkansas personal injury lawyer. “Hospitals and health professionals now know how to effectively quarantine and deal with this deadly disease. But for Thomas Duncan, we may never have ramped up infection control to the degree it is today.” However, Duncan’s legacy has potentially opened the door to numerous lawsuits or settlements for medical negligence.
Although the hospital where Duncan died did come to a settlement with his family members, and indicated they would not be billed for his care, the glaring error of sending him home in the first place continues to mystify medical and legal professionals. It was more than a mistake.
“It was supreme negligence in not properly flagging his point of origin and correlating that with his symptoms,” Smith adds. “Instead of further investigations, the hospital sent him home with antibiotics – an error that could have spread Ebola to his family and hundreds of others in the U.S.” As it was, two nurses caring for him also contracted the disease, but were fortunate enough to survive.
Despite the settlement, which the hospital touted as being a common-sense approach to following Texas laws, patients who have experienced in The Lone Star State are severely disadvantaged when it comes to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. First, the medical profession victimizes them, and then the justice system.
Filing a medical negligence lawsuit in Texas is extremely difficult due to the state’s rules dealing with errors that happen in the E.R. In Arkansas, it is another story. There is no cap on damages in a medical malpractice case. A damages cap sets limits on the amount and/or type of compensation an injured patient may receive in a successful trial.
Roughly half the states have some form of a damage cap, but there are several states that do not. They include Wyoming, Washington, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York (punitive damages are capped), Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, and New Hampshire.
“Admitting their mistake was one more step in the settlement process,” Smith points out. “And although that admission will not bring Mr. Duncan back, the hospitals new memorial fund in his honor may assist victims in Africa.”
The death toll in Liberia has surpassed 4,181 deaths, with 7,244 cases reported. In Sierra Leone, the death toll has climbed past 1,463 deaths, with 6,802 cases on the records. Guinea reports more than 1,284 deaths and 2,123 cases.
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