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Hospital Sued for Exposing Patients to HIV


Massachusetts General Hospital is being sued for doing something that for many people would be considered a nightmare: according to the hospital, they may have exposed about 450 people to the HIV virus.

Notification of Exposure

The hospital notified those patients, saying that it did not use best practices, and as a result, the virus could have been transmitted to any of 450 patients who were administered medicine intravenously. The hospital says that the exposure may have come from one infected individual.

The lawsuit filed as a result of the exposure is a class action lawsuit, where patients potentially exposed say that they suffered severe emotional distress, over the possibility that they may have been exposed to HIV.

Many say, according to the lawsuit, that they needed to undergo mental health treatment, and that the possibility of infection altered and affected their personal lives and relationships.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

The case was filed under what is known as negligent infliction of emotional distress. These are cases where there is no physical injury, and sometimes, no physical touching—the injuries are purely psychological, emotional, or emotional.

The law limits the extent to which someone can recover for only emotional damages (that is, emotional damages with no accompanying physical injury).

Emotional damages are often suffered not by the people in the accident, but by family members  watching the accident.  Imagine a family that witnesses their child being hit by a car, or someone who tries to render aid to a victim, only to have the victim die in that person’s arms.

Limitations and Restrictions on Recovery

But the law realizes that unlike physical injuries, which can be seen on x-rays and other medical diagnostics, mental and emotional damages are easily exaggerated. So, the law makes it harder to get damages for cases where there is only emotional damage.

To get emotional distress damages, the law says that the person witnessing or watching the accident, can’t just be anybody who sees the accident, but rather, must be someone with a close personal relationship to the victim.

There also must be some physical impact—but that doesn’t mean physical injury. So, for example, if you see your child hit by a car, and run to his aid, and you scrape your knee, or pebbles fly in your face, you have a physical “impact,” even if you have no physical injury. Thus, you would have enough to make a claim for your emotional damages.

Those seeking emotional-only damages also need to be close enough to the accident that they could have been injured, even if they were not.

Reasonable to be Distressed

You also must show that it would be reasonable for someone else, in the same situation to suffer emotional damages. In the hospital HIV case above, being told that you were exposed to HIV would certainly make any reasonable person feel fear, trauma, anxiety, and other emotional damages.

Did you suffer emotional distress after an accident? Call our Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. today at 617-275-4200 for help with your emotional distress case.




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