MRSA Infection Lawsuit Results In $17.5 Million Verdict

In 2005, the number of deaths caused by Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections in the United States overtook the number of deaths caused by AIDS.  More than doubling from five years earlier, almost nineteen thousand people died as a result of MRSA and a further ninety-four thousand suffered life-threatening infections from the bacterium.[1] What worries me when I hear reports like this is that while MRSA infections can be just as deadly as AIDS, they are generally much simpler to treat and prevent. In part, this is why I see a growing number of victims turning to courts to provide them with relief when medical authorities fail them.

David Fitzgerald had all four limbs amputated after suffering from a serious MRSA infection.

MRSA-related lawsuits are generally claims of negligence against a medical authority that has some responsibility or duty of care towards the victim.  Due to the varied ways in which a MRSA infection can be acquired or mistreated, liability can arise in many different circumstances against a variety of parties.  At low levels, a medical malpractice lawsuit can arise from an individual doctor misdiagnosing or mistreating a MRSA infection that has already occurred in their patient.  This is what happened to a patient in Texas, David Fitzgerald, whose doctor treated him with eight different antibiotics, none of which were effective against MRSAs.[2] As a result, David developed gangrene and had all four limbs amputated. He was awarded $17.5 million as a result of negligent treatment of his MRSA infection, however this was later reduced to $7.5 million under Texas damages cap ruling. David currently lives with his brother, and is unable to bathe or leave the house by himself.

As we trace responsibility up the food chain we see facilities at which victims acquired their infections being sued, especially hospitals.  These types of lawsuits focus on environmental conditions at the facility and place the blame for the infection on the administrators and staff whose job it is to keep the facility safe and hygienic.  A classic example of healthcare-associated MRSA infection involves bacteria that have grown on a piece of equipment that is used on a patient, thus causing them to become infected.  Over two and a half million dollars was awarded to a Missouri couple when the husband acquired an infection through a contaminated IV tube, which spread when doctors later inserted a pacemaker.[3] This type of claim is seen less frequently due to new guidelines being published for the prevention of hospital infections by the CDC and other organizations, resulting in a raised standard of care expected from hospitals.  In addition, Medicare has stopped reimbursing for certain types of healthcare-associated infections and a downturn in the economy can make patients more likely to assert their rights through litigation.[4]

Even higher levels of authority have recently come under fire for possible liability in MRSA cases.  The National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the largest health board in the United Kingdom, is being sued by 74 year-old Liz Miller after she contracted MRSA in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary after a heart valve operation.[5] Spawning a mass action lawsuit by 200 other patients, Miller’s lawyers were able to argue that they should be allowed to sue the NHS by claiming that she should have been protected by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations.  This places the blame for infection at a high level of government.

We have yet to see MRSA-related litigation at the constitutional level – a claim that MRSA represents a threat to life, liberty and security of person or something similar.  I certainly hope that authorities will recognize the threat before it reaches that level and take effective steps to prevent disaster.

  1. Klevens, R.M. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 17, 2007; vol 298: pp 1763-1771.
  2. Texas Amputee Wins $17.5 million In Hospital-Acquired MRSA Infection Case. http://mamedicallaw.com/2009/03/30/texas-amputee-wins-175-million-in-hospital-acquired-mrsa-infection-case//
  3. MRSA Infection Lawsuits on the Increase. http://www.mrsapedia.com/mrsa-infection-lawsuits-on-the-increase/
  4. HAI-Related Litigation: What Infection Preventionists Need to Know
  5. MRSA gran Wins Battle to Allow her to sue NHS. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/health-news/2010/05/23/mrsa-gran-wins-battle-to-allow-her-to-sue-nhs-86908-22279510/

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6 Responses to “MRSA Infection Lawsuit Results In $17.5 Million Verdict”

  1. David Nordstrom says:

    I also was contacted with MRSA from a blood transfusion in the hospital, MRSA had returned 4x. It got into my joints had my left shoulder & hip replaced 2x and debriiment on both ankles. I was hospitalized for 144 days, wheelchair for 14 months, and walker for 8, this was over the period of 3.5 yrs. I had to eventualy go to the Mayo Clinic for life saving results. Please forward the law firms name to me!

  2. Hi David, thank you so much for sharing your story and we are so sorry to hear of this MRSA related ordeal you have journeyed through. You can find more relevant information regarding this case at: http://mamedicallaw.com/2009/03/30/texas-amputee-wins-175-million-in-hospital-acquired-mrsa-infection-. Please keep us updated on how you progress both here and on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/MRSAidProduct?ref=ts). Wishing you all the best.

    The MRSAid Team.

  3. Michelle Szakacs says:

    Thank you for educating the public Trevor and my heart goes out to David. Other MRSA patients realize, this lawsuit is an exception to the rule. I had a massive abdominal MRSA Hosp Acquired wound post op that took 8 months to close. I showed the Dr.’s the wound was weeping before I left the hosp @ 4 days, “no worries” they said. At home I was burning up with fever and weeping more. I went back to the covering surgeon “no worries” and put on cephalexin. At 10 days the steri strips fell off and I had a huge hole in my stomach, it had not granulated (healed). 30 cm x 11 cm. It was opened more, packed and I was sent home with orders for a nurse daily for 6 months. A culture was taken. The nurse came 1 day and her eyes bugged out. She changed the massive dressing and left. Fever went higher, tried to reach the Dr. for hours. Finally begged to be seen, went through the ER and the covering looked and her eyes bugged out. Her and the resident starting “debridement”. Huge pieces of necrotic tissue was excised for 2 hrs and I was sent to a room with a lung transplant patient??? They didn’t suspect MRSA yet. Days and days went by of twice daily debridement. Still in the room with the same patient. Day 6 of my hospital stay a resident couldn’t understand why I wasn’t healing and why there was more and more new necrotic tissue daily being debrided twice daily. She checked my culture. Positive for MRSA (a very strong, difficult straing) Klepsiella, Pseudomonas, Staph and a total of 7 bacteria’s that obviously came from the OR. I left the hospital with a weeping wound and 101.5 fever (a supposed hysterectomy which he missed all parts of my repro organs!) I tried to sue, two attorneys worked on the case and neither one would sue him. They both said we could not prove where in the hospital I got it. This was in late 99-2000. I’ve traveled across the country to the Mayo Clinic and been to many Dr.’s. Most can’t do anything. I’ve been on PICC lines but now I’m allergic to Vancomycin which is the main drug for MRSA and can only be dispensed via IV. I still live with major problems, a small area opens and drains. I pack it with Medi-Honey (NZ honey FDA approved) and it’s caused a handful of other health problems. Realize, most of the time you get MRSA in a hospital you’ve signed off upon entering or for your surgical release that you can’t sue for infections. Most lawyers won’t take the cases, they want win/win cases. This man lost 4 limbs the poor guy. It was blatantly obvious he got it in the hospital but in most cases, you CAN’T SUE!

  4. ROZALIA KOTACK says:

    MY HUSBAND WENT TO MEMORIAL ENDOSCOPY CLINIC FOR COLONOSCOPY/ENDOSCOPY TEXT ON 2-24-12 WITHIN DAYS I WAS RUSH TO HOSPITAL WITH HIGH FEVER AND WHITE BLOOD COUNT OF 35000, HOSPITAL TOLD ME THEY FIGHTING DENGEROUS BACTERIA THAT COMES FROM DIRTY WATER AND EQUIPMENT, HE SPEND 3 WEEKS IN THE HOSPITAL, NOW HE IS AT HOME STILL SICK WITH NEW PROBLEM, THANK YOU

  5. Kate says:

    Forget the idea that autorities will recognize the threat before it reaches that level and take effective steps to prevent disaster. That will not happen. The disaster will.

    The patients are not the priority in hospital. An environment free of MRSA, ERV (ENTEROCOQUE RESISTANT TO VANCOMICIN) AND OTHER NOSOCOMIALES INFECTIONS LIKE ECOLI, AND NECROTISING ENTEROCOLITIS IN NEW BORNS IS NOT A PRIORITY EITHER.

    The hospital workers are rather totaly unconcious about the risk carried by those antibiotic resistant diseases, because hey think they are immuned to it, which is wishfull thinking on thier part. Hospitals are dirthy, they have black molds, the ventilation systems are not cleaned and they are pushing all kinds of airborn sickness producing bugs including Legionaire disease which was proven to be transmitted true contaminated air exchange of the building.
    Hospital equipment can also transmit MRSA and other resitant bacterias. Hospitals are the no.1 culprit for transmission of these diseases.

  6. John Whitfield says:

    In 1988 I entered the New York State Prison system and was apparently suffering from a urinary tract infection. Despite the fact numerous laboratory test results conclusively confirmed that I had multiple bacteria in my urinary tract, I was never diagnosed nor did I receive any treatment for these documented infections. Eventually these bacteria had spread to virtually every part of my body. Twenty years later, after I had endured countless episodes of secondary life threatening medical conditions caused by these deliberately untreated infections, I was diagnosed and prescribed a 7 day dose of antibiotics. I immediately preserved my right to suit when I filed a Notice of intention. Eventually the same bacteria repeatedly returned, and each time the prison doctors refused to prescribe the appropriate treatments in direct violation of their own Health Service Policy and Procedure.
    I commenced a timely action in the New York State Court of Claims, and just recently I filed a motion to amend the claim, which is currently pending (Whitfield v. State, Claim #118853). I am more than willing to fax you a copy of the amended claim for your edification.

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