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Premises liability suit against hospital settled out of court

Hospitals are safe havens where sick people can receive comfort and care. Florida residents should expect that to be the case. When something goes wrong during a hospital visit, however, they should understand their legal right to seek accountability regarding personal injury.

To that end, the family of a teenager who died while in the care of emergency room staff filed a lawsuit in another state. A settlement has ended the case. According to their attorney, in addition to monetary compensation, the family is working with government officials to pass a law designed to help prevent such a tragedy in the future.

The complaint alleged that the victim's mother took her to the medical center's emergency room for follow-up treatment of a urinary tract infection. A nurse reportedly asked the 14-year-old for a urine sample. While alone in the restroom, she experienced breathing problems. Her mother alleges she could hear her daughter in distress, but could not open the locked door.

Hospital staff attempted to unlock the door from the outside using various items like pencils and paper clips. According to the complaint, it took 10 minutes for a key to be produced by security officers. When they were finally able to get the door open, the teen was unresponsive.

The family's website states she was likely suffering from toxic shock syndrome caused by a bacterial blood infection. The defendant hospital admitted in responding to the complaint that there was no master key at the nurses' station. They denied that staff didn't know where the key was within the hospital. Court records documenting the settlement don't show admission of guilt by the defendant. The hospital reportedly immediately improved the standard of care regarding restroom access and safety of patients and visitors.

Personal injury accident investigations often reveal premises liability or negligence that leads to litigation. A careful evaluation of the facts, as well as the needs and wishes of the victims' families, will determine the best strategy for seeking positive outcome and recovery.

Source: USA Today, "Hospital reaches settlement over bathroom death" James Fisher, Feb. 15, 2014

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