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Can I sue a hospital if I contract MRSA while in the hospital?


Over the last few months I have received many phone calls and emails from people who have contracted MRSA while staying in the hospital for routine surgeries, etc. They all ask me the same question: Can I sue the hospital because I contracted MRSA while staying at the hospital? I say yes you can sue, but you don’t automatically win just because you contracted MRSA. You have to show that the hospital did something wrong and that negligence led to you contracting MRSA or not being treated effectively.

The complete answer is not a simple one, but requires some discussion.  We begin by starting at the beginning. Negligence law 101. In order to sue a medical provider in Ohio and in many other states, you have to show that the hospital or medical facility had a duty to keep you safe, was negligent in that their treatment standard of care fell below that of an ordinary hospital in the area, and that as a result of their negligent and careless acts, you contracted MRSA or did not get treated quickly or effectively with negative consequences.

As any competent MRSA lawyer / attorney will tell you, if you want to sue a hospital or medical provider after you contract MRSA, you have to basically show they did something wrong that led to you contracting MRSA or not get treated correctly for MRSA.  As you can see these cases depend on the specific facts of each case. This breaks down to basically several theories of negligence? I will discuss four of them here.

  1. Negligence / Failure to protect you from danger of catching MRSA
  2. Delay in diagnosing MRSA
  3.  Delay in treatment of MRSA
  4. Using wrong drugs to treat MRSA

Cause of Action #1: Negligence is failing to protect you from catching MRSA


Under this cause of action you have the burden to show that the hospital was negligent in not protecting you from catching MRSA. If the hospital’s medical care was below the standard of medical care of similar hospitals in the area, you may have a case for negligence.  This means that the standard of care acceptable care in rural  or poorer area hospitals may be lower than city hospitals, and this is how the law works.

You can also look at CDC guidelines on infectious disease control as a guide to whether the hospital met the standard of care, especially if similarly situated hospitals follow the guidelines exactly. For example, if the hospital places you in a room with someone who clearly has MRSA and does not adequately protect you from contacting MRSA, you may have a valid cause of action for negligence. You see, you can argue that the hospital knew about a risk to you, namely the other guy who had MRSA, and did not adequately protect you from catching it.

  • If you are in a room with someone with MRSA and you asked to be moved to a private room, did they say no?
  • If you are in a room with a MRSA patient, did they test your for MRSA regularly, as the CDC guidelines state?
  • Did a nurse or doctor with known MRSA use adequate precautions?
  • Did a medical person treating someone with MRSA use adequate safety measures when treating you? This can be hard to prove.

CDC guidelines include subjects such as:

  1. Hand hygiene protocols
  2. Gloving
  3. Mouth, nose, eye protection 
  4. Gowning
  5. Appropriate device handling of patient care equipment and instruments/devices
  6. Appropriate handling of laundry
  7. Patient placement priority

This item is interesting, in that the CDC discusses placing MRSA patients or those suspected of having MRSA in a private room, or if not possible placing people with the same MRSA in the same room, or when not possible, place MRSA patients with other non infected patients “who are at low risk for acquisition of MRSA and associated adverse outcomes from infection and are likely to have short lengths of stay.”
 If you have a weakened immune system and are placed in a room with a known MRSA patient, you may have a cause of action.

  8. Environmental measures - frequent disinfection of all items in the vicinity that are frequently touched.  

Any of these areas can give rise to a claim for negligence on the part of the medical facility if you can obtain proof that some standard of care was not met by the facility.  This usually involves getting hospital guidelines, nursing notes, etc.
 
Cause of Action #2: Delay in diagnosis of MRSA

If a medical provider is negligence in diagnosing MRSA and you are injured as a result of that delay, you may have a cause of action. You have to show the delay in treatment led to more serious medical problems or death. Put another way, you have to show you suffered a lot because you did not get the MRSA diagnosis in a timely manner.
In order to address this issue, you have to know when the symptoms occurred such that a normal competent doctor would have found the MRSA.

When did the symptoms occur?

MRSA infections typically start out as small red skin bumps that resemble acne or insect bites. These rather small boils can quickly turn into very deep, painful wounds that require surgical draining. While MRSA infections typically remain confined to just the skin, they can enter deeper into the body resulting in infections of the blood, heart, or lungs.

If the symptoms were present and your doctor missed them, you may have a cause of action.
 
Cause of Action #3.   Delay in treatment of MRSA

If for some reason there is a delay in treatment of the MRSA, usually associated with a missed diagnosis, you may have a cause of action.
 
Cause of Action #4.   Negligence in treatment of MRSA

One of the most common areas of MRSA litigation regarding negligent treatment stems from use of incorrect drugs for MRSA. While every situation is different, and must be reviewed by a trained medical malpractice lawyer, the following facts can serve as a general outline:

  • According to many medical experts, Vancomycin is the drug of choice for treatment of MRSA.  It is usually given intravenously in the hospital.
  • Zyvox is used to treat MRSA and Vancomycin resistant staphylococcus aureus.
  • Bactrim belongs to a class of drugs known as sulfonamides and is used in combination with Rifampin for the treatment of MRSA.
  • Rifampin is often used in combination with Vancomycin or Bactrim. The North Dakota Department of Health reports that Rifampin is not to be used alone for the treatment of MRSA as the bacteria rapidly becomes resistant to the drug.
  • According to the National Institute of Health's website, tetracycline is not the first choice for the treatment of MRSA but it has been shown to be effective in most studies
 
Summary:


Just because you catch MRSA in the hospital you don’t automatically win a lawsuit against the hospital. You have to show they did something wrong that either:

  1. led to you catching MRSA or
  2. kept you from getting prompt diagnosis and treatment of the MRSA once you were infected.
 
This area of litigation is complicated and cases can be difficult and costly to win. I suggest that if you or someone you love was infected with MRSA and you believe that a medical provider may have done something wrong, you need to talk to an Ohio MRSA lawyer attorney. Please give us a call at the Chester Law Group at 1-800-218-4243. The time you have to bring this type of lawsuit can be as short as one year so call us now.


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