Martin Memorial Hospital must now face a jury in a local woman's lawsuit to determine if its alleged lack of infection control practices caused her MRSA infection according to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Palm Beach County.
In her case, Louise Webster alleges she went into the hospital in May 2002 for surgical repair of her broken ankle but acquired a MRSA infection in the hospital, causing complications and permanent injury.
Martin County Circuit Court Judge William Roby dismissed her case reasoning Mrs. Webster could not prove the hospital's negligence caused her MRSA infection. Judge Roby ruled "Plaintiffs have failed to prove that the alleged breach of standard of care in this case proximately caused the damages the Plaintiffs are claimingâ€. Judge Roby also, at that time, denied Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint to add a claim for Punitive Damages.
The Appellate Court reversed and in an opinion issued on March 2, 2011, stated Martin Memorial "failed to establish there was no issue of fact regarding causationâ€ of the MRSA infection.
Additionally, the hospital now may face a hearing for assessment of punitive damages.
Gloria Seidule, attorney for Louise Webster stated: "Punitive Damages are a form of punishment damages, and we are happy this issue will be decided on its merits instead of by a technicality imposed by the Judge."
The appellate Court's decision means the case will now be decided by a Martin County jury. Seidule stated, "We have numerous clients who believe they contracted MRSA because of the negligence of Martin Memorial hospital. These people will now be able to have access to our jury system."
Infections have long been considered an acceptable risk of medical care by the medical community. But now, with the development of "superbugs", infections like MRSA can be deadly. Science has advanced tremendously, and healthcare acquired infections can be prevented with proper sanitary procedures by the hospital.
"With this decision people who get infections at the hospital can have their day in Court." Seidule said, "we feel it is a significant victory in favor of the patient."