As an Aventura medical malpractice attorney, I was very interested in a report on a claim filed by the widow of a man who fell seriously ill after surgery at the Mayo Clinic Florida. According to a Nov. 9 article from First Coast News, Peggy Wolford of Stuart is suing the clinic for medical malpractice leading to the wrongful death of her husband, Dennis Wolford, in 2008. Dennis Wolford received two liver transplants at the clinic, in 2006 and 2008, but was allegedly infected with hepatitis C while a patient there. Peggy Wolford’s suit claims the most likely source of the infection was an employee at the clinic who was fired and criminally charged for stealing patients’ IV drips of a painkiller in order to get high. Peggy Wolford’s suit says the medical expenses related to the transplants and infections have cost her the couple’s home and forced her to declare bankruptcy.
The clinic made news in August when it released a press release saying an employee had caused a hepatitis C outbreak. Steven Beumel, 47, was a radiation technician at the clinic before he was arrested for stealing drugs to feed his painkiller addiction. He is accused of injecting himself with Fentanyl, a painkiller, intended for patients undergoing invasive procedures. After he was done, he would allegedly replace the drug with plain saline solution, but re-use the needle he had used on himself — exposing patients to anything he had in his system and depriving them of the painkiller. A report from September says at least three people were believed infected with hepatitis C, and at least two have died. Wolford’s lawsuit alleges that her husband died from hepatitis C acquired at the clinic, almost certainly from Beumel.
As a Davie medical malpractice lawyer, I suspect Peggy Wolford will have a strong case. The hepatitis C outbreak at the Mayo Clinic Florida was an important story for the local press at the time, and one report suggested that the clinic and health authorities knew about the outbreak long before they figured out where it came from. Affected families can reasonably argue that the clinic failed to supervise Beumel or take as much corrective action as the situation required. In most situations, employers are legally responsible for the actions of their employees while at work, and for supervising those employees adequately. Dennis Wolford’s situation was particularly horrifying because hepatitis attacks the liver, and Wolford was in the clinic to receive a liver transplant. In that situation, the clinic would have a special duty to prevent anything that weakens the liver and immune system further.
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