Veteranclaims’s Blog

November 13, 2009

Govt. Pays Out $44K to end Hepatitis Liability

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — veteranclaims @ 10:46 pm

Full Article at: Government hepatitis liability ends with $44 K payout to veteran

About the writer
Walter F. Roche Jr. can be reached via e-mail or at 412-320-7894.
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Last updated: 10:32 am

“The federal government is paying $44,000 to end its liability in the case of Army nurse anesthetist Jon Dale Jones, who infected 16 patients in a Texas military hospital with hepatitis, a potentially fatal liver disease.

Court records in Texas show the government has agreed to pay the money to veteran Daniel Henry of El Paso.

Seven other victims will receive nothing from the federal government, but will share an estimated $1 million from an insurance policy covering Jones. Each of the seven is expected to get about $72,000 after expenses and legal fees are paid.

The eight remaining unidentified victims, who never sued, apparently will receive nothing.

All 16 victims are veterans, active-duty soldiers or members of their immediate families.

One victim, Steven Damron of Missoula, Mont., said he still suffers side effects from hepatitis treatments. And he is not pleased with the insurance settlement.

“I’m very upset about it,” he said in a telephone interview. “I have a disease that will affect me for the rest of my life. I can’t get rid of it. It’s changed my whole life. I can’t be a medic anymore.”

He said he was told that if he didn’t agree to the settlement, “I could lose everything.”

Damron said he came under Jones’ care when he underwent back surgery in 2004 at Beaumont Army Medical Center. Later, when Damron was reactivated and about to head for Iraq, blood tests showed he had hepatitis. Subsequent tests led to the conclusion that Damron was infected by Jones.

Jones pleaded guilty to reduced criminal charges of infecting one of the patients. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Records in the criminal case show that Jones was stealing anesthesia intended for patients by injecting it into a hidden vial. The vial, however, became infected from a patient with hepatitis. Jones contracted the disease himself, then passed it on to 15 patients.

Legal experts say the federal government’s civil liability is limited in such cases, in part because of the Feres Doctrine — which stems from a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that bars malpractice and other tort claims by active members of the military.

Henry, a veteran, was not active military when he was infected.

Texas attorney Dean Swartz, who has a pending federal case involving military medical malpractice, said the Feres Doctrine was a likely factor in the limited number of cases filed — despite Jones’ guilty plea.

“The Feres Doctrine is a huge hurdle to overcome,” Swartz said.

Attorneys involved in the civil cases either refused to return calls or declined comment pending the filing of final settlement papers. Details of the insurance coverage were revealed in a separate suit, in which the insurance company sought to limit or eliminate its responsibility.

Because of the 1950 court ruling, the federal government was a named defendant in only one civil case — that of retired veteran Henry, who was awarded $112,000. The federal government will pay $44,000, while Jones, as an individual, will pay a little less than $40,000.

The company that hired Jones — Columbia Healthcare-Arora Joint Venture — has agreed to pay about $29,000, court records show.”

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