On March 2, Nina Pham, also known to the public as the “Ebola Nurse,” filed a lawsuit against Texas Health Resources, the parent company to Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, alleging that the hospital’s lack of training and proper equipment, as well as violations of her privacy, turned her into “a symbol of corporate neglect – a casualty of a hospital system’s failure to prepare for a known and impending medical crisis” after she contracted the deadly virus. Before caring for a patient with Ebola, she purportedly asked a nurse manager, “’What do I do?’ and they looked it up on the Internet and printed out a sheet,’” Pham’s attorney Charla Aldous stated. Apparently that was the total amount of training they had on treating Ebola patients.
Pham states that she continues to face numerous mental and physical health issues, despite being declared Ebola-free, and she believes the hospital was not truthful about the incidents leading up to her becoming infected with the deadly disease. Texas Health Resources responded to the impending lawsuit on Friday via spokesman Wendell Watson stating, “Nina Pham bravely served Texas Health Dallas during a most difficult time. We continue to support and wish the best for her and we remain optimistic that constructive dialogue can resolve this matter.”
Pham is requesting unspecified damages for physical pain and mental anguish, medical expenses and loss of future earnings.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, thereby resulting in damages or injury to another. Four elements of negligence have to be asserted and proven in order to be successful in such a suit. The four elements are:
1) Duty – The defendant owed a legal duty to the alleging plaintiff under the facts and circumstances.
2) Breach of Duty – The defendant breached this duty by its actions or its failure to act in a certain way.
3) Causation – The defendant’s actions (or failure to act) caused the damages or injury to the plaintiff; and
4) Damages – The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions.
Pham is alleging that Texas Health Resources was negligent because of their failure to develop policies and training of staff for treating Ebola patients. She further states that THR did not have proper protective gear for those who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
Negligence in the workplace may cause employers and employees to face legal consequences for both their actions and any failures to act which may cause injury to the other party. Typical consequences include payment to the victim of damages for their injuries or losses, and also requiring a company to re-draft their employment policies and procedure handbooks. Workplace negligence can include:
(a) Negligent Hiring – Hiring an employee who lacks training, credentials, or experience and they ultimately injure a customer due to their inexperience or training.
(b) Negligent Retention – Keeping an employee though they should have been terminated due to their haphazard activities.
(c) Negligent Supervision – Failing to properly supervise employees, which ultimately causes injury or damages to another.
(d) Negligent Training – Failing to provide complete and adequate training methods, which ultimately compromises safety.
It is imperative that all employers stay abreast of, and maintain, proper training of and for employees to ensure a safe working environment.
If you believe the environment you are working in is not safe, or if you require additional training in a high risk work environment, please speak with your company’s Human Resource department.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.