Judgment Entered Against Hospital Corporation for Needlestick

CHEYENNE, Wyo. /PRNewswire/ -- The United States District Court in Cheyenne has entered judgment for $50,000 to a woman stuck by a used needle while visiting a patient at one of Banner Health System's hospitals in Wyoming. A hospital employee had left the needle lodged in a heat register.

The woman brought her claims against Banner Health System, said Cheyenne attorneys Diana Rhodes and Jim Fitzgerald. She did not expect or know that the contaminated needle was in the patient's room, and backed into it, and it stuck in her thigh.

The victim, Fitzgerald said, hopes the judgment promotes hospital safety by sending a message to hospitals to better train their employees, and to set up appropriate standards for needlestick safety. Fitzgerald added, "Tort law is not solely for compensation. Its other important purpose is to encourage safe practices."

Rhodes added, "The hospital has since changed its needlestick safety and prevention standards to comply with existing standards of care, and it is training hospital employees on the new policies."

Although a nurse took the visitor to the emergency room, the hospital never informed her of her medical options. In court papers, the attorneys said that the hospital never told the woman she had a window of opportunity for an injection of gamma globulin to prevent the possibility of hepatitis B. Such injections are standard for nurses who sustain needle sticks.

The hospital never could determine the source patient of the bloody needle, the attorneys report. The visitor alleged Banner was careless in failing to provide a safe hospital environment, and failing to comply with universal precautions for needlestick safety and prevention. The attorneys add that the woman has not developed HIV or other bloodborne diseases yet, but according to court filings, she suffered and continues to suffer distress over those possibilities. The attorneys say the hospital did not provide her with any counseling commonly given to individuals who sustain a contaminated needle stick.

Source: Diana Rhodes