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Hospital and device manufacturer liable in wrongful death case

Many in Kern County may believe that wrongful death cases are often “cut and dry,” with one party being assigned liability and compelled to pay compensation to another. Yet while some cases may play out this way, others may be very complex, with multiple parties being accused of being at fault for the death of those at the center of these disputes. In situations where liability may be shared, juries could actually choose to assign a degree of fault to several defendants.

 Such was the outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf a deceased Washington man. His death was but one of many that resulted from a superbug outbreak that was first seen at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center. The cause of the outbreak was traced back to a particular medical device used in gastrointestinal procedures. The design of the device lead to it retaining harmful bacteria that, if not cleaned properly, could infect patients on whom the scope was later used. Ultimately, the outbreak claimed the lives of 35 patients at U.S. hospitals and prompted the recall of over 4,400 of the devices by its manufacturer.

In this lawsuit, the family of the decedent was eventually joined in the action by the hospital where he died. Both parties claimed that the design flaw of the scope was solely to blame for the infection. The manufacturer, on the other hand, claimed the hospital was at fault for not cleaning the device properly. In the end, the jury mandated that the manufacturer pay the hospital $6.6 million in damages, and ordered the hospital to pay $1 million to the man’s family.

Those looking to pursue a wrongful death claim in situations such as this may be wise to enlist the services of an experienced attorney.

Source: Los Angeles Times “Jury orders Olympus to pay $6.6 million but rejects claims its medical scopes are unsafe” Terhune, Chad and Aleccia, JoNel, July 25, 2017

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