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Fungal infections: Hospital malpractice or general negligence?

By now, most Kentucky residents have probably heard about the children who died at an out-of-state children's hospital because of fungal infections caused by the linens used at the hospital. Three of the five families who lost children because of the fungal infections have filed lawsuits against the children's hospital. The case brings an important question to light. That question pertains to who is responsible for the contaminated linens.

The lawsuit names the hospital, the linen supplier and the administrative contractor as the defendants in the lawsuit. No doctors or nurses are named in the lawsuit. That is where the issue comes in.

If the deaths were caused by general negligence and not medical malpractice, that state's $500,000 cap on each lawsuit is avoided. In the case of general negligence, the families have one year from the injury or from learning about the injury to file, whereas there is a three-year limit from the incident if it was hospital malpractice.

The deaths occurred because of an outbreak of mucormyocosis that occurred in 2008 and 2009. The children's hospital is arguing that the lawsuits should be filed under medical malpractice laws because providing a sterile environment is one of the duties hospitals have within the scope of patient care. Judges in two cases have sided with the families of the deceased children by denying the hospital's motion to dismiss the cases on the grounds that these are medical malpractice claims that should go before the state medical review panel before heading to court.

These cases go to show how important it is for anyone who has been subjected to injury or harm while receiving medical care to know about laws that might apply to the case. Understanding applicable laws might help them to make a decision about to proceed with claims for compensation.

Source: Nola.com, "Lawsuits over Children's Hospital fungal outbreak bring up debate over medical malpractice" Katherine Sayre, Apr. 25, 2014

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