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Outbreaks in Pennsylvania hospitals lead to wrongful death suits

Hospitals are a place that many Pennsylvania families retreat to secure health care for their ailing loved ones. Pennsylvania residents may not realize, however, that hospitals can sometimes internally spread diseases and cause other serious ailments and complications -- like death to hospital patients. When this happens, filing a wrongful death action may be the only recourse.

Veteran hospitals throughout the country and specifically in Pittsburgh are the center of such controversy. Recent news reveals that outbreaks of diseases at these hospitals and concealment of these outbreaks by hospital administration are serious problems. Legislators are actually attempting to attack the problem: they are trying to pass legislation that makes it illegal for VA hospitals to conceal outbreaks.

While this legislation will be helpful to those affected by future outbreaks, it does not necessarily redress victims of previous and current outbreaks. For instance, many patients and their families have suffered as a result of a fatal outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. To compensate for the loss of their loved ones, these families decided to file wrongful death lawsuits.

In one case, the government -- who is the defendant in the action -- has agreed to an interesting stipulation. The government agrees that its negligence led to the patient's Legionnaires' disease. The issue of whether this negligence caused the patient's death remains.

Nevertheless, this stipulation and other stipulations can significantly impact litigation. Outside of the courtroom, stipulations can be used by a wrongful death attorney and his clients to negotiate a settlement with the defendant hospital. In the courtroom, stipulations can reduce the need for pre-trial motions and the length of trial. When parties agree to certain facts, they no longer have to litigate them.

Although hospitals are a source of healing, additional complications can arise during a patient's stay as a result of hospital conditions. While the new legislation can be helpful in securing the safety of patients, patients and their families should understand how they could also use the legal system to seek recourse.

Source: WPXI.com, "Government concedes negligence in Legionnaires' lawsuit," Adam Smeltz and Brian Bowling, Feb. 4, 2014

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