If You Work In Healthcare, Can You Sue Your Management Company For Inadequate Training?
Can a nurse or other healthcare professional sue outside of the worker's comp process for negligent training procedures? Depending on the circumstances, yes. The first person to contract the Ebola virus in the U.S., a nurse, is suing the parent company of the hospital where she worked and contracted the disease for (among other things) negligence. If you work in the healthcare industry, this case could eventually affect you.
Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment.
How safe can a hospital be, really? Doctors and nurses accept a certain amount of risk by the very nature of their jobs -- they are likely to come into contact with patients who have all manner of communicable diseases, from Hepatitis A to infectious mononucleosis. Sick patients are part of the ordinary hazards of the job.
Except that hospitals, like other employers, are expected to provide safety training to employees. That duty goes all the way down to the janitorial staff and kitchen aides who bring the dinner trays. Everyone in the hospital should be trained on how to safely interact and handle those patients who are very sick and very contagious -- when they aren't properly trained the organization in charge is behaving negligently.
A printout from the internet doesn't count as training.
In this situation, the nurse in question alleges that she was handed a printout from the internet on how to protect herself against the Ebola virus just as she was assigned to care for a victim of the disease. Her training as a nurse in the United States hadn't prepared her for the particularly virulent disease, which has no specific cure and no vaccine. The nurse herself was the first victim of the disease to catch it on U.S. soil.
The nurse alleges that she and other staff were essentially forced to figure out for themselves how to care for their patient and that they weren't provided with the proper protective gear. Her lawsuit alleges that she would have been better off and more adequately prepared had she been treating the patient in Liberia, where the disease is more common. Lending credence to her claim, a second nurse contracted the disease soon after.
The parent company is trying to shield itself behind workers' compensation laws.
The hospital's parent company, Texas Health Resources (THR), is trying to shield itself behind workers' compensation laws. It's hoping to be declared the nurses co-employer, rather than the hospital's management company. If it were, the nurse would be limited to workers' compensation benefits only, instead of being able to ask the court to compensate her for her pain and suffering and to level punitive damages on THR. Neither pain and suffering nor punitive damages are available under workers' comp rules.
Unfortunately for THR, they've previously denied being the employers of other nurses who have been injured on the job -- which is why the case is so far continuing through civil court. If it is successful, other healthcare professionals who find themselves inadequately trained and over-exposed to diseases and other hazards may be able to use her case as a precedent to hold healthcare management companies like THR responsible for their haphazard response to employee dangers.
That means that if you're a healthcare worker hired for a hospital, clinic, or another facility through a management company, and you find yourself injured due to inadequate training, you can collect workers' compensation from your employer and sue the management company that sent you into the danger zone separately in civil court for a personal injury. If you've contracted a disease and suffered as a result of inadequate training procedures, contact a personal injury attorney near you.
To learn more, contact a law firm like Morales Law.