Tags: Ebola Outbreak | dallas | hospital | lawsuit | thomas eric duncan | family

Lawyers: Dallas Hospital Not at Serious Risk Over Ebola Death

By    |   Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 11:27 PM

If they decided to seek more than an apology from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the family of Thomas Eric Duncan, who died at the facility from the Ebola virus, and two nurses infected while caring for him won't find much recourse in state courts.

Lawyers tell the U.K. newspaper The Guardian that Texas court decision and laws, including a 2003 Republican-led tort reform move – make it unlikely the hospital would face serious legal risk from the Ebola cases.

And even if the hospital were found liable in court, the damages would be limited.

Duncan's relatives are considering a lawsuit, The Dallas Morning News has reported.

In an op-ed published in the Morning News last week, Duncan's nephew Josephus Weeks places the blame for his death on the hospital.

"Their error set the wheels in motion for my uncle's death and additional Ebola cases," he wrote, "and their ignorance, incompetence or indecency has created a national security threat for our country."

But the family's first challenge would be huge: proving Duncan ever had a better-than-even chance of survival once he'd contracted the virus. Texas courts have ruled that if a patient was likely to die the hospital can't be held liable for malpractice, the Guardian notes.

Paula Sweeney, a Dallas lawyer and a former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, told the Guardian Duncan's family also will have a difficult time proving wanton negligence.

"Yes, they screwed up; yes, they turned away a guy with a fever with antibiotics," Sweeney told the newspaper. "But they did do something."

The 2003 tort reform law also has capped pain and suffering damages for hospitals, in a case like Duncan's, at $500,000 – a quarter-million each for the doctor and the hospital. Because Duncan's income was fairly low, his lost wages wouldn't add much to any pain and suffering award.

Texas law also likely prevents the nurses from pursuing litigation, attorneys say.

Sweeney told the Guardia the Ebola case in Dallas is "the ultimate example" of what tort reform has meant to Texas.

"Look at the catastrophic risk to people involved, to the health care providers, to the community, and there's no risk to the insurance company," she says.

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If they decided to seek more than an apology from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the family of Thomas Eric Duncan, who died at the facility from the Ebola virus, and two nurses infected while caring for him won't find much recourse in state courts.
dallas, hospital, lawsuit, thomas eric duncan, family
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2014-27-22
Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 11:27 PM
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