Ebola Nurse Settles Case Against Texas Hospital

October 24, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from the first domestic case of the virus settled her lawsuit against her employer before trial on Monday.
In a joint statement, Nina Pham and Texas Health Resources told Courthouse News they “have resolved the pending lawsuit, and wish the best for each other going forward.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
“All parties have agreed the terms of the resolution are confidential and will not make additional statements or grant media interviews,” the parties said.
Pham sued Texas Health Resources in March 2015 in county court for negligence, misrepresentation, breach of privacy and misrepresentation. She said she was not properly trained or given proper protective equipment when she cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas in October 2014.
She tested positive for Ebola three days after Duncan died from the disease.
Duncan’s case set off a month-long public health crisis in North Texas that involved the monitoring of over 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures. A second nurse, Amber Vinson, also tested positive for the disease.
Vinson was transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and Pham to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where they both recovered and were issued clean bills of health.
Pham claimed that she was used a “PR pawn,” that a widely shared video of her in a hospital bed at Presbyterian was released without her permission. She said the hospital ignored her request to release no information about her when she became ill.
Pham has publicly stated her anxiety over the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental treatments she took, noting her hair has been falling out and she’s not sure she can have children.
Texas Health Resources had denied Pham’s claims, arguing they are subject to workers’ compensation laws because the Ebola exposure happened at work. The trial court had issued an injunction preventing the hospital and Texas Health Resources from adjudicating whether they are co-employers in the case, but the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas reversed the injunction in August.
Pham’s case was scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 18, but was delayed for several days because an earlier trial in the same court ran longer than scheduled.

From Courthouse News.

Dallas Ebola Hospital Blamed for Ohio Bridal Store’s Closure

October 4, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – A shuttered Ohio bridal shop sued Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Tuesday, claiming authorities forced its shutdown after an Ebola-infected nurse visited the store for a bridal gown fitting.
Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal Inc. sued corporate parent Texas Health Resources and Presbyterian Healthcare Resources in Dallas County Court, claiming the closure cost it “hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages” due to the hospital’s negligence.
Presbyterian has faced severe criticism of its treatment of original Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, in October 2014. Nurses Amber Vinson and Nina Pham contracted the disease after treating Duncan.
The bridal shop says Vinson visited the store to pick out dresses for her upcoming wedding, just before she was diagnosed with Ebola upon her return to Dallas.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said at the time that Vinson “should not have been allowed to travel by plane” because “of the fact she was in an exposed group.”
Coming Attractions says Presbyterian “negligently failed to heed” warnings of providing nurses with needed training and personal protective equipment while treating Duncan, who ultimately died at the hospital.
The National Nurses United union blasted Presbyterian during the crisis, saying the hospital initially opposed isolating Duncan, placing him for hours in a room with other patients and not providing adequate protective equipment to medical staff.
“Nurses and other frontline hospital personnel must have the highest level of protective equipment, such as the Hazmat suits Emory University or the CDC themselves use while transporting patients, and hands-on training and drills for all RNs and other hospital personnel including the practice putting on and taking off the optimal equipment,” union head RoseAnn DeMoro said at the time. “The time to act is long overdue.”
The Cleveland bridal shop says the protection and training provided to Vinson and Pham was “nominal at best.”
“Following Duncan’s death, the hospital reassured Ms. Vinson, Ms. Pham, and the other nurses that they were at no risk for contracting Ebola even though Ms. Vinson and Ms. Pham had alreaady unknowingly contracted the disease,” the six-page complaint states. “On or about Oct. 8, 201[4], the hospital also negligently informed Ms. Vinson and Ms. Pham that they were free to intermingle with family, friends and the public at large, despite the nurses’ exposure to the dangerously contagious disease.”
Coming Attractions says its shop was mandated closed by Ohio authorities after Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola.
“The bridal shop thoroughly cleaned its store inventory and premises in an effort to eliminate the Ebola hazard before re-opening in November 2014,” the complaint states. “Despite its best efforts to dispel the perceived Ebola risk and stigma associated with the bridal shop, the bridal shop continued to suffer loss of business and ultimately was forced to shut down permanently.”
Presbyterian did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday afternoon.
Coming Attractions seeks actual and punitive damages for negligence and gross negligence. It is represented by Patrick R. Kelly in Dallas.

From Courthouse News.

Court Tosses Injunction in Ebola Nurse’s Case

August 4, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) — A Texas appeals court reversed an injunction preventing a hospital and parent company from adjudicating whether they are co-employers in a negligence case filed by a nurse who contracted Ebola while treating a patient.
Nina Pham of Dallas tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 12, 2014, after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first domestic case of the disease. She was placed into isolation and transported by air ambulance to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, where she was released after two weeks with a clean bill of health.
Pham sued Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and corporate parent Texas Health Resources, or THR, five months later in county court, claiming she was used as a “PR pawn” after being given inadequate training and protective equipment.
She alleges her neck and hair was exposed and that she was not provided disposable scrubs or a change of clothes while treating Duncan.
Pham said her privacy was violated during her treatment, turning her into “a symbol of corporate neglect – a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.”
Presbyterian and THR have tried to get the case tossed, arguing her claims belong in workers’ compensation proceedings with the Texas Division of Insurance.
Pham has argued she was employed by Presbyterian, not THR. The trial court later issued a temporary injunction prohibiting attempts at adjudicating whether Presbyterian and THR are co-employers regarding the issue of whether the claims belong in a workers’ compensation case.
A three-judge panel with the Fifth District Court of Appeals disagreed, reversing the trial court’s order and dissolving the injunction on Wednesday.
Authored by Justice Bill Whitehall, the 17-page opinion concluded Pham failed to “produce some evidence on each element of at least one recognized cause of action to show a probable right of recovery that could support” the injunction.
“Pham’s affidavit presents no evidence of cause in fact,” Whitehall wrote. “It contains no testimony that she would not have contracted Ebola had THR adopted different policies and procedures, provided her with different training, or provided her with different personal protective equipment.”
Whitehall cited insurance adjuster Steven Fisher’s notes that stated Pham’s exposure to Ebola “appears to be due to the insured’s inadequate procedures relating to employee exposure” to Duncan, and that employees were not required to be “completely” covered.
“Fisher’s statement, by using the phrase ‘due to,’ arguably draws a causal connection between Pham’s injuries and ‘the insured’s inadequate procedures,'” Whitehall wrote. “But Fisher does not identify ‘the insured,’ nor does anything else in the five-page claim notes report. There was evidence, in the form of deposition testimony, that both THR and all of its wholly owned hospitals were insured by the relevant workers compensation insurance policy. So Fisher’s reference to ‘the insured’s’ procedures is no evidence that any conduct or omission by THR in particular in fact caused Pham’s injuries.”
Whitehall reasoned that even if Fisher was referring to THR regarding “inadequate procedures,” that statement would still not be “competent evidence of causation” because there is no evidence Fisher was an expert qualified to address causation.
Pham’s attorneys did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment Thursday afternoon.
THR said shortly after the lawsuit’s filing that it will continue to show Pham “the utmost courtesy, dignity and respect as a member of the Texas Health family.”
A second infected Presbyterian nurse, Amber Vinson, was treated and released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Duncan did not survive.

From Courthouse News.

Hospital: Dallas Ebola Nurse’s Lawsuit Belongs In Workers’ Comp, Not Courts

April 7, 2015
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from a patient cannot sue her employer for negligence and breach of privacy because her claims belong in workers’ compensation proceedings, hospital officials claim in court.
Texas Health Resources, the parent of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, responded to nurse Nina Pham’s lawsuit on April 3, asking for dismissal with prejudice or referral to the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Pham sued the hospitalon March 2 in Dallas County Court. She tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11, 2014, after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, who died of Ebola three days earlier at Presbyterian.
Texas Health Resources faced harsh public criticism for botching Duncan’s initial diagnosis and sending him away from the emergency room with only antibiotics before admitting him during a second visit.
The case set off a monthlong public health crisis in North Texas that involved monitoring more than 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures.
Pham claimed the hospital failed to train staff about Ebola and failed to provide proper protective equipment.
She also claimed her privacy was violated during her isolation and treatment as a patient, and that the hospital ignored her request to release no information about her when. She said a viral video of her in her hospital bed recorded by a doctor was released without her permission.
Texas Health Resources denied Phams’ claims of negligence, premises liability, misrepresentation and breach of privacy claims, in its 5-page answer.
It says the court has no jurisdiction in the matter, that Pham’s “exclusive remedies” are under state workers’ compensation laws, because the Ebola exposure happened “in the course and scope of employment.”
“There is no question defendant is a subscriber to workers compensation coverage,” the answer states. “To that extent, whether or not plaintiff is an employee of defendant for purposes of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act and subject to the exclusive remedies of the Act is determined by the Division.”
Pham’s attorney, Charla Aldous in Dallas, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the hospital’s answer.
“My hope was that they would come clean and be honest about what happened so that the healthcare community can learn from the mistakes made,” Aldous told the Dallas Morning News.
“Instead, they try to skirt the issue by claiming legal defenses that do not apply. This response by THR just confirms that a lawsuit is necessary to bring light to the facts of what really happened that allowed two nurses at Presbyterian Dallas to contract this deadly disease.”
Texas Health Resources spokesman Wendell Watson said that the company will continue to show Pham “the utmost courtesy, dignity and respect as a member of the Texas Health family.”
He said the facts will show that the company and Presbyterian “acted responsibly” to protect employees.
“System and hospital administration actively sought and utilized the most up-to-date guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and also coordinated with leading experts at Emory University Hospital to determine and provide the best possible care for Ebola patients,” Watson said in a statement. “We respected Ms. Pham’s privacy and acted only with her consent.”
Pham said in March that she hoped Texas Health Resources “would be more open and honest” about what happened at Presbyterian. “But that didn’t happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help,” she said in a statement.
“The fact is, I’m facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them.”
Pham said that since her recovery she has suffered anxiety about the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental drugs she was given. Her hair has been falling out.
“I don’t know if having children could be affected by this, but that’s something I worry about,” Pham told the Morning News. “Just the uncertainty of it all. And if I do have a health problem in the future, is it related to Ebola or is it something else?

From Courthouse News.

Hospital Responds to Nurse’s Ebola Negligence, Privacy Claims

March 4, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The Texas hospital that treated the first domestic case of Ebola responded to “distressing” claims of negligence and breach of privacy brought by a nurse who cared for the patient and caught the deadly disease.
Nina Pham, 26, sued Texas Health Resources on Monday in Dallas County Court. She tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11, 2014, after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, who died of Ebola three days earlier at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
The case set off a month-long public health crisis in North Texas that involved monitoring more than 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures.
Pham claims the hospital failed to provide her and her coworkers with adequate Ebola training or protective equipment that could have prevented her illness. She also claims hospital officials ignored her request to release no information about her when she tested positive, and used her as a “PR pawn” when the hospital faced withering public criticism for its handling of the case .
Hours after Pham’s attorney filed the lawsuit, Texas Health Resources sent employees an email message responding to her allegations.
“THR was sensitive to Nina’s privacy, and we adhered to HIPAA rules in determining what information to share publicly,” Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan said. “We had Nina’s consent to share the information about her that was released.”
Chief clinical officer Dr. Daniel Varga apologized to a U.S. House committee during the crisis for Texas Health Resources’ mishandling of the case, which resulted in Pham and nurse Amber Vinson being infected. Berdan said the company “stands behind Dr. Varga’s statements.”
“Dr. Daniel Varga’s testimony before Congress was factual and accurate, and any implication to the contrary is both false and irresponsible,” Berdan said.
Berdan said the company has continued to support Pham because of its “strong culture of caring and compassion” and views its employees as “family.”
“As distressing as the lawsuit is to us, we remain optimistic that we can resolve this matter with Nina,” Berdan said.
In her lawsuit, Pham says she was turned into “a symbol of corporate neglect – a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.”
“I was hoping that THR would be more open and honest about everything that happened at the hospital, and the things they didn’t do that led to me getting infected with Ebola,” Pham said in a statement Monday. “But that didn’t happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help. The fact is, I’m facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them.”
Pham said that since her recovery, she has anxiety about the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental drugs she was given. Her hair has been falling out and she worries about her ability to have children.

From Courthouse News.

Dallas Nurse Sues Presbyterian For Negligence, Using Her as “PR Pawn”

March 3, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The Texas nurse who contracted Ebola from the first domestic case of the disease has sued her employer, claiming it gave her inadequate training and protective equipment and used her as a “PR pawn.”
Nina Pham, 26, tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 11, 2014, after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, of Liberia, who died of Ebola three days earlier at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
The hospital’s corporate parent, Texas Health Resources, apologized to a U.S. House committee for mishandling the case, which resulted in Pham and nurse Amber Vinson being infected.
The hospital also faced harsh public criticism for botching Duncan’s initial diagnosis and sending him away from the emergency room with only antibiotics before admitting him during a second visit.
The case set off a month-long public health crisis in North Texas that involved monitoring more than 100 possible contacts, sterilization of several locations and school closures.
Pham sued Texas Health Resources on Monday in Dallas County Court. She claims lack of training and proper equipment and violations of her privacy during her isolation and treatment turned her into “a symbol of corporate neglect – a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis.”
“I was hoping that THR would be more open and honest about everything that happened at the hospital, and the things they didn’t do that led to me getting infected with Ebola,” Pham said in a statement Monday. “But that didn’t happen and I felt I was left with no choice but to turn to the courts for help. The fact is, I’m facing a number of issues with regard to my health and my career and the lawsuit provides a way to address them.”
Hospital officials have yet to publicly address Pham’s allegations.
“Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time,” Texas Health Resources spokesman Wendell Watson said Sunday. “We continue to support and wish the best for her, and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter.”
Pham said the extent of her Ebola training at the hospital was a printout of guidelines a supervisor found on the Internet.
Her 36-page lawsuit claims nurses “had no choice but to use the Internet” because the hospital failed to provide appropriate protective equipment or instructions on how to use it.
“Importantly, Nina’s neck and hair remained exposed,” the complaint states. “Nina was not even provided disposable scrubs or a change of clothes. She had to wear the scrubs she wore that first day home, taking out of the hospital clothing that was potentially carrying the virus.”
Pham said, “The only thing I knew about Ebola, I learned in nursing school” six years earlier. Nurses allegedly were given hazardous materials suits only after asking for them for days.
“We’ve had nurses that I’ve worked with that worked in other states, and they worked in hazmat suits for flu and H1N1,” Pham told the Dallas Morning News. “Why aren’t we wearing hazmat suits for Ebola?”
Pham said she “was the last person besides Mr. Duncan to find out he was positive” for Ebola.
“You’d think the primary nurse would be the first to know,” she said.
Pham said she was the only nurse who cared for Duncan his first day in the intensive care unit, describing him as “very appreciative and nice” to her.
She claims the hospital ignored her request to release no information about her when she became sick. She says that a video of her in a hospital bed at Presbyterian, recorded by a doctor, was released without her permission.
“I wanted to protect my privacy, and I asked several times … to put be as ‘no info’ or at least change my name to Jane Doe,” Pham said. “I don’t think that ever happened.”
Pham’s attorney, Charla Aldous in Dallas, accused the hospital of using her client “as a PR pawn.”
“THR quickly learned that Nina and her dog Bentley had enormous public support and sympathy,” the complaint states. “So THR began trying to use Nina as a PR tool to save its plummeting image. While Nina laid in isolation, heavily medicated and facing a potentially gruesome death, THR had its PR department calling Nina. The PR Department was trying to release information and use Nina as part of its THR-corporate-driven #PresbyProud campaign.”
Pham said that since her recovery, she has anxiety about the long-term effects of Ebola and the experimental drugs she was given. Her hair has been falling out.
“I don’t know if having children could be affected by this, but that’s something I worry about,” Pham told the Morning News. “Just the uncertainty of it all. And if I do have a health problem in the future, is it related to Ebola or is it something else?”
In November, Texas Health Resources settled claims with Duncan’s family for his misdiagnosis. Financial terms were not disclosed, but family attorney Les Weisbrod, with Miller Weisbrod in Dallas, said the settlement was better than what the Duncans could have received in court because of Texas’ caps on medical malpractice claims.
Damages for individual defendants are capped at $250,000 and gross negligence must be proven – a higher standard than ordinary negligence.
Louis Troh, Duncan’s fiancée, for whom he traveled to Dallas, was not a party to the settlement because she is not a member of the family.
The family will not be charged for Duncan’s care, under the terms of the settlement.
Pham remains on paid leave from Presbyterian, Aldous told Courthouse News on Sunday.

From Courthouse News.

Ebola Patient Zero’s Family Settles Malpractice Claims Against Hospital Over Botched Diagnosis

By David Lee
November 12, 2014
DALLAS (CN) – The family of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan has settled its claims with the Dallas hospital that botched his initial diagnosis and sent him home with antibiotics.
Attorney Les Weisbrod, with Miller Weisbrod in Dallas, announced details of the settlement at a news conference Wednesday morning with members of Duncan’s family.
Hours earlier, his office filed three medical malpractice lawsuits in Dallas County Court on behalf of the Duncans against Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Presbyterian-parent Texas Health Resources, Emergency Medicine Consultants Ltd. and Texas Medicine Resources LLP.
Duncan’s diagnosis, and death, set off a month-long public health crisis that included two of his nurses contracting the disease and the monitoring of more than 100 possible contacts.
Judge Carlos Cortez approved the settlements in an afternoon hearing after listening to testimony in support of the agreement from Duncan’s sister, May Weruth.
The Presbyterian hospital faced scathing criticism for its misdiagnosis of Duncan, who died on Oct. 8 at the hospital after being admitted on his second visit.
Duncan apparently caught the deadly disease while in Liberia days before flying to Dallas. He had helped an ill, pregnant woman to the hospital who was thought to have died due to pregnancy complications.
Civil rights activists and local government officials blasted the hospital, accusing it of turning Duncan away because he was black and lacked insurance .
“We know why what happened at Presbyterian happened. It’s historically what has happened in this community,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said at the time. “If a person who looks like me shows up without any insurance, they don’t get the same treatment.” Price is African-American.
Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Weisbrod said the settlement was better than what the Duncans could have received in court because of Texas’ caps on medical malpractice claims.
Damages for individual defendants are capped at $250,000 and gross negligence must be proven – a higher standard than ordinary negligence.
“The initial treatment in the emergency room, in my opinion, was such that it would meet the standard of gross negligence and that it would have made a difference in the outcome,” Weisbrod said. “I believe that the evidence shows that Mr. Duncan should not have been released; he got up to 103 degrees. He had a number of abnormal findings on his blood work and studies.”
Weisbrod said the defendants would establish a fund for Duncan’s four children and parents, and another fund to help Ebola patients in West Africa.
Louis Troh, Duncan’s fiancée, for whom he traveled to Dallas to marry, is not a party to settlement because she is not a member of the family.
Duncan’s nephew Josephus Weeks angrily blasted the hospital for its “ignorance, incompetence and indecency” in the days after his uncle’s death.
At the press conference, he struck a conciliatory tone in saying, “We all make mistakes.”
“I believe this is an outstanding facility, but we are all human and we make errors,” Weeks said. “What I can do it make sure everything that happened makes things better for everyone.”
Weeks said Presbyterian officials have done an “amazing job” to make things right and that he would have no problem with seeking treatment at Presbyterian.
Weisbrod said the family no longer believes the errors committed had anything to do with Duncan’s race or lack of insurance – that it had to do with poor Ebola policies and procedures.
Weisbrod said his clients will not be charged for Duncan’s care, under the settlement.
Texas Health spokesman Wendell Watson said that the company is “grateful to reach this point of reconciliation and healing for all involved.”
“We know that this has been a terribly sad, difficult and trying time for Mr. Duncan’s family and friends, and they will continue to be in the hearts and prayers of the entire Texas Health Presbyterian family,” Texas Health said in a statement. “As part of the healing process, we have again extended our sincere apologies to the family and shared our regret that the diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease was not made at the time of Mr. Duncan’s initial Emergency Department visit.”
Presbyterian said it “greatly appreciates” Weisbrod’s acknowledgment that Duncan’s inpatient care “was excellent.”
Texas Health also noted Texas’s “common sense” medical malpractice laws that allow for quick resolution of claims “fairly and equitably.”

From Courthouse News.