Negligence Cases Against Hospitals for Negligent Transmission of Coronavirus

Hospitals in the United States and elsewhere are often on the front lines when new infectious diseases begin spreading among at-risk populations. In 2003, following the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus, hospitals in Toronto lifted restrictions after new cases were not detected for the length of two incubation periods, or about 25 days.

However, 15 days after restrictions were lifted, workers at North York General Hospital realized that the virus had continued to spread to patients unprotected from exposure, leading to a new outbreak. In the wake of the second SARS outbreak, researchers examined hospital responses to and management of disease outbreaks and developed a series of recommendations on “building preparation and engineering, personnel, departmental workload, policies and documentation, infection control, personal protective equipment, training and education, public health, management and administration,” and follow-up with infected persons, according to the May 2004 edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

After SARS, hospitals around the world were on notice of the dangers that coronaviruses could pose to patients. Yet, seventeen years later, as another coronavirus, named COVID-19, spread around the world, a well-known healthcare scholar warned, in the Wall Street Journal, that hospitals were not “ready for the deadly virus or a future global contagion.”

In the wake of two well-known recent, deadly coronavirus outbreaks – SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009 – should hospitals in the United States have been better prepared to deal with COVID-19? A hospital patient or guest exposed to COVID-19 in a hospital facility may pursue a claim against the hospital facility if the facility’s negligence was responsible for exposing the patient or guest to the virus.

Hospitals are Coronavirus “Hot Zones, Putting Everyone Inside at Risk”

The Washington Post reported, as COVID-19 infected hundreds of thousands of people across the United States, that “[o]ne irony of an infectious-disease outbreak is that it turns hospitals, which should be a refuge for the sick, into hot zones, putting everyone inside at risk.” As the Post reported, early indications from Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 originated, showed that 41-percent of patients were infected in a hospital.

The Post cited studies that recommended new hospital designs and protocols to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and to prevent future outbreaks. Some hospitals in Sweden began designing patient flows and entrance and waiting areas 15 years ago, with future pandemics in mind.

Many other hospitals were ill-prepared to confront COVID-19, and doctors and nurses in the United States, citing a lack of proper equipment and safety protocols, worried that they were spreading the disease rather than healing it, according to Politico.

Some Hospitals Failed To Enact Proper Safety Measures, Despite Risks

As COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, numerous print and online publications warned that hospitals were unprepared to deal with the expected flood of patients. One veteran nurse at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, complained that the hospital “offered little notice or training to those caring for the infected patients.”

Hospitals and other treatment facilities have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure safe treatment of patients. Unfortunately, many prominent voices in the medical community have voiced concern that American hospitals were not adequately prepared for COVID-19, according to National Public Radio.

If a hospital patient or guest has been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of the negligence of a hospital, the person may be entitled to damages for out-of-pocket medical costs, pain and suffering, and any permanent damage or loss of function caused by the infection.

Charlotte Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help Patients Infected With COVID-19

Persons infected in a hospital with COVID-19 may pursue claims against the facility for the following potential breaches of the duty to exercise reasonable care:

  • Failure to adequately train staff on how to properly deal with patients exhibiting virus symptoms;
  • Failure to test employees and patients for the virus;
  • Failure to screen employees and patients for symptoms;
  • Failure to enact reasonable safety protocols such as mandating the use of protective clothing and requiring social distancing measures to protect patients;
  • Failure to quarantine patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Failure to screen hospital guests for symptoms;
  • Failure to enact disinfectant and social distancing guidelines for employees;
  • Failure to close facilities to guests, to protect patients.

If a hospital failed to take reasonable steps to protect patients from exposure to COVID-19, a person injured by the facility’s negligence may be entitled to bring a claim against the hospital. The professionals at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can assist hospital patients or guests who believe they contracted COVID-19 at a hospital.

Contact Our Personal Injury Attorneys Today To Schedule A Free Consultation

The best thing a hospital patient or guest injured by exposure to COVID-19 can do is contact an experienced, local personal injury attorney today. With offices in Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville, Arnold & Smith, PLLC handles personal injury cases across the entire State of North Carolina. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to set up a free initial consultation.

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