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(Supreme Court of Washington, January 18, 2024) The Supreme Court of Washington overturned a trial court decision to dismiss claims brought by patients who may have been exposed to Hepatitis C at the defendant’s hospital. MultiCare Health employed a nurse who diverted drugs and engaged in conduct that put patients who were treated with narcotics at risk of contracting Hepatitis C. The trial court allowed patients who were treated by the nurse to continue to trial but dismissed claims of patients who were treated with narcotics while the nurse was on duty but who were not treated by the nurse. The hospital informed those patients of the potential exposure and suggested they be tested for Hepatitis B and C and HIV. The Court found that, for medical malpractice claims, plaintiffs seeking emotional damages that involve fear of disease transmission may have a viable cause of action if they can prove they experienced reasonable fear of having contracted a disease by a medically recognized means of transmission. Plaintiffs may recover damages only for the period of time that they experienced the anxiety related to the potential exposure. Because the patients had been made aware of the potential exposure and had to wait for test results, they may be able to prove all elements of the claim; thus, their case was revived. Read the full Opinion here.  

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 15, 2024.

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