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Mistakes Were Made: Just How Strong Is the COVID Liability Shield?

A lawsuit in Knoxville, Tennessee has pitted a patient’s family against a hospital. The question at hand: is the nurse, who committed a medical error, protected by a federal COVID-19 emergency order?

An article in the Tennessee Lookout by Jamie Satterfield lays out what happened. A patient with a variety of health problems, including COVID-19, was admitted to the Turkey Creek Medical Center for treatment. He was placed on a ventilator to help him breathe and was making progress in his recovery from COVID-19 according to the notes in his chart.

Then, one morning, while still on the ventilator, he needed to take some oral medications to help manage his heart disease, which was unrelated to COVID. Since he was intubated, he couldn’t swallow the pills, so a nurse crushed the pills and “pumped them into his intravenous tube” when she should have administered them through his feeding tube. The patient died minutes later.

The lawsuit also claims that attempts were made to alter the patient’s medical records to show that the medications were not given to the patient. However, an investigation was performed by the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, and an autopsy determined that “’his main cause of death is acute embolization of foreign material (crushed medication).’” In other words, the crushed medications caused a blockage that led to his death. “The forensic center probe confirmed [the patient’s] death resulted from [the nurse’s] actions, not COVID-19 or COVID-19 treatment.”

Clearly, a medical error was committed that led to the patient’s death. However, the attorneys for the hospital and the nurse are invoking a federal COVID-19 pandemic order. “That order promised health care workers immunity from liability if COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 treatments and ‘countermeasures’ caused serious injury or death.” The lawyers have made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

What’s in dispute is whether the federal COVID-19 pandemic emergency order protects Martinez and the hospital from liability for the error that the nurse committed when she administered the patient’s medication incorrectly.

No decision has been made at this time, but this case is bound to set a precedent for future cases involving patient care and medical errors that occurred during the pandemic. There’s a lot at stake.

Ohio has its own, separate COVID-19 immunity law that affects cases where the medical error happened in Ohio.

The Eisen Law Firm and Medical Error Cases

The Eisen Law Firm handles medical malpractice cases exclusively. We have years of experience helping our clients win medical negligence cases. We stay abreast of all the pertinent laws and the nuances within those laws, so that we can best assist our clients with their cases. We know both the medicine and the law of medical malpractice. As a boutique medical negligence law firm, we only assist with medical malpractice, birth injury, and wrongful death cases. And, we do not take many cases. We keep our case load small, so that we can dedicate our full attention to the cases we do handle. We commit to whatever time is necessary to see the medical error case through to completion. We also fund the entire case, and medical malpractice cases can get very expensive. You will not be asked to pay anything out of your pocket. We get paid when we win. Our interests are 100% aligned with yours.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medical error, please contact our experienced Cleveland malpractice lawyers to discuss your options for legal recourse and for obtaining the compensation you deserve. To schedule your free consultation, call 216-287-0900 or contact us online today.