Suspicious Deaths at the VA Spark Criminal Investigation/Wrongful Death
A person of interest has been announced in a criminal action following the deaths of 12 patients at the VA hospital in Clarksburg, VA. Two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the VA after loved ones died of insulin injections that they were never ordered to get. Twelve patients on the same floor suffered similar symptoms during the night shift between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Two Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The families of two veterans who died in the hospital have now filed wrongful death lawsuits against the hospital. While it is still unclear who the employee was who was dispensing the fatal doses of insulin to patients who didn’t need them, it is clear that this was ongoing for some length of time and it was an employee who had access to the patients who was giving them the lethal doses of insulin.
The patients’ stories are similar. They seemed to be on the road to recovery on floor 3A at the VA hospital. Suddenly, their condition rapidly declined and when autopsies were ordered, the cause of death was revealed to be hypoglycemia.
This is precisely what happened to one patient from the VA whose family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The family’s civil lawsuit describes the high death rate on floor 3A of the VA hospital during the hours of 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. It describes how a pattern emerged among patients who were recovering only to then die of hypoglycemia.
Will the Hospital Be Liable?
The hospital is absolutely liable on a number of theories of civil tort claims. Firstly, the hospital is vicariously liable for the conduct of their employees who are functioning in their capacity as an employee during the time of a fatal event. However, the fact that this may not necessarily have been an action of negligence (but of malice) does change the landscape a little bit.
In addition to filing a lawsuit on a theory of vicarious liability, the plaintiffs can also file claims on theories of negligent hiring and negligent supervision. Depending on whether or not they allowed these deaths to occur even after there was ample evidence of a pattern could open the hospital up to be liable for punitive damages.
Of course, the fact that the VA is a government organization does change things a little. These claims are filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act which allows individuals and families who were harmed by the VA to sue federal agencies for negligence. However, the federal government enjoys some immunity from injury claims and thus damages can be limited in these cases.
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