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Veteran wins big against VA in Hepatitis C malpractice suit

Medical malpractice does not need to be the direct result of a health care worker's negligence in order to be actionable. Any negligent action from any medical care provider can lead to a malpractice suit. A general lack of adherence to sterilization procedures, for example, as seen in the recent courtroom win of a veteran in a medical negligence case, could possibly lead to hundreds of further lawsuits against several Veterans' Affairs hospitals.

The Florida lawsuit win can serve as an example for hospital negligence lawsuits nationwide. In the suit, the plaintiff accused the VA of using dirty equipment at three of its hospitals, exposing him and hundreds of other veterans to Hepatitis C in the process. His accusation of exposure during a colonoscopy that led to his contracting Hepatitis C was proven in court, leading to an award of $2.25 million.

The exposure was apparently widespread among the three hospitals, with more than 11,000 veterans treated during that period with equipment that may have been contaminated. At least one other veteran has come forward since the cases' conclusion stating that he also contracted Hepatitis C following a procedure at a VA hospital. The Florida decision does not serve as a precedent for cases in other states where the VA hospitals accused of using dirty equipment are located. What it does do is show the accusation is credible, giving hope to other veterans who may have been exposed themselves.

For residents of New Mexico, it also serves as an example of how even large institutions can be brought to justice for malpractice. Regardless of whether the negligent actions were those of a single doctor or the result of institutional actions, residents of the state have a right to seek compensation through the court system for the harm such negligence causes.

Source: WRDW, "Vet with Hepatitis C wins lawsuit," Elizabeth Owens, Nov. 27, 2012

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