New York City, New York (NewYorkInjuryNews.com) — Not all medical negligence cases necessarily involve a patient and his or her doctor or hospital. There are often circumstances that can make a doctor or hospital liable without a patient being the plaintiff.
“Jane”, a 37-year old woman, used to work as a cleaning attendant at a private medical office. While emptying the trash, Jane was pricked with contaminated syringes and as a result, contracted the HIV virus. She decided to bring a lawsuit against the doctors and their medical group to recover money damages for her pain and suffering.
The case seemed straight forward enough: it is a universal protocol for doctors to see to it that used syringes are disposed of safely in bio-hazardous waste containers – not the general trash bins where they may come into contact with an unprotected and unsuspecting bystander or worker. However, Jane’s attorney was faced with a substantial challenge: the needle(s) that infected Jane could not be produced. The medical group had either “lost” or destroyed the syringes, which meant definitive evidence was not available at trial. Although the judge charged the doctor’s with “spoliation” (destroying evidence), it was still up to Jane’s attorney to prove that she was stuck with contaminated needles and to disprove that she might have contracted the HIV virus elsewhere.
Given their culpability in tampering with evidence, the doctor’s defense then took a sordid approach. They claimed only the missing needles could prove what happened, and further, that it was more likely that Jane contracted HIV from unprotected sex with various partners or as a result of a blood transfusion that she received some fifteen years earlier. However, that strategy failed.
Instead, the jury heard about how the rooms Jane routinely cleaned were rooms used at the medical facility to treat AIDS/HIV patients and that the medical staff had a history of improperly disposing needles and other medical paraphernalia. The jury heard evidence that as a result of the medical groups’ carelessness, Jane must now live the rest of her life with a “medical time-bomb” -she had already developed severe depression and anxiety. Although she won a substantial sum, I’m sure she would rather have her health back.
Contributor: Robert Sullivan – New York Trial Attorney handling medical malpractice, general negligence, motor vehicle and construction site accident matters. Get legal answers from this leading New York medical malpractice lawyer by completing the form below.