Federal Jury Awards HIV Patient $18.4 Million after Doctors Failed To Do Proper Testing
On June 18th, a federal jury awarded more than $18 million in damages to a man who allegedly developed AIDS because his former physicians failed to test him for HIV; despite the fact that he displayed higher risk factors for and was, in fact, carrying the virus.
Although the plaintiff/patient was gay and had worked as a paramedic—factors which reportedly increase your chances of contracting HIV/AIDS due to being exposed to bodily fluids—and even though he had explicitly consented to an HIV test in 2007, the plaintiff’s doctors never performed the test. Finally, by the time a different doctor performed the test in 2010, not only did he test positive for HIV, but by then, the disease had progressed into AIDS, causing him brain damage and destroying his ability to continue his work as an attorney.
What Happened? How Could They Miss The Symptoms?
The plaintiff was originally hospitalized (and provided consent to be tested for HIV) in 2007 due to experiencing facial paralysis. It was a resident who informed him, at that time, that his symptoms were “highly suggestive of an HIV infection,” which led him to consent to HIV testing. Sadly, the neurologist disagreed, noting in the patient’s medical record that there was “no risk of HIV.” He not only dismissed the idea of running the proper tests, he went so far as to cancel the test without telling his patient. When the patient then followed up with his primary care physician, he was informed that “his tests looked good,” and reasonably inferred that this meant that he did not test positive for HIV; presuming he had been tested for it by the neurologist. Sadly, once that the patient learned that he did have the virus, he was already struggling with brain damage and cognitive impairment.
What the CDC Recommends Regarding Testing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all patients between the ages of 13 and 64 be screened for HIV at least once. However, sexually active gay and bisexual men are advised to undergo testing for HIV every year.
Medical Malpractice/Negligence Attorneys
After an eight-day trial, the jury found that the former doctors—one an internist, and the other a neurologist—were negligent in their care for the patient and had caused him injury. The third doctor—an infectious disease specialist—was also found to have been negligent, but his actions were not found to have caused the plaintiff injury.
Doctors and specialists do not have to make an active mistake during surgery or a procedure in order to be found liable for medical malpractice. Failing to conduct a necessary test—and cancelling it without informing a patient—can suffice to constitute medical negligence.
If you live in Florida and have been injured by a similar incident, contact us at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out how our Boca Raton medical malpractice attorneys can help.