COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

Failure to Isolate Patients Potentially Infected With COVID-19

Chicago Lawyers Handling Medical Malpractice Cases

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers must take increased precautions to avoid transmitting the illness to others. Unfortunately, when health care providers do not take the proper precautions, the results can be devastating. The failure to isolate patients potentially infected with COVID-19 can spark an outbreak. Call the Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca if you or a loved one was infected with COVID-19 while at a hospital or health clinic.

Failure to Isolate Patients Potentially Infected with COVID-19

The Illinois Department of Public Health has recommended that patients potentially infected with COVID-19 must be isolated for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms or, if asymptomatic but infected, 10 days after the specimen collection date. Patients should not be released until they are afebrile for a minimum of 24 hours and experience improvement of the COVID-19 symptoms. Alternatively, to be released from isolation, a patient must have negative results from two COVID-19 PCR tests in a row, with testing conducted at least 24 hours apart. However, this approach is considered to have less utility. For symptomatic patient, it’s only appropriate where the fever resolved without using medication and improvement of symptoms.

Where a patient has a close contact with someone infected with COVID-19, the patient should be quarantined for 14 days after the last or most recent contact. A close contact occurs when a person comes within 6 feet of another person infected with COVID-19 for a minimum of 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset or two days before a positive specimen collection if there are no symptoms.

Liability

Ordinarily, to establish medical malpractice in Illinois, the plaintiff’s lawyer will need to show by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) a doctor-patient relationship generated the duty to follow a professional standard of care, (2) the doctor departed from the professional standard of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor issued several executive orders that potentially alter the rules related to medical malpractice. Illinois health care providers can be immune from civil liability if they render assistance and follow relevant guidance during COVID-19. There is immunity if an act or omission constituting medical negligence happens in the course of rendering assistance. However, a health care provider is not immune where its acts constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Since the Executive Orders are new, the courts have not interpreted them in a medical malpractice context. To recover damages, you will need to show that a healthcare provider’s failure to isolate patients potentially infected with COVID-19 either violated relevant guidance or constituted gross negligence. If the failure violated relevant guidance, the health care provider may not be immunized from an ordinary medical malpractice suit for damages. Where the failure to isolate counts as gross negligence or willful misconduct, you may be able to recover damages.

Generally, gross negligence exists when a defendant consciously disregards safety. For example, if the defendants simply ignore information that a patient is potentially infected with COVID-19 and, as a consequence, the patient infects others and causes their deaths, the failure to isolate may be seen by the court as gross negligence. A defendant engages in willful misconduct by acting recklessly such that physical harm is the result. This is perhaps less likely to apply, but would be the case where a defendant health care provider knows of the harm, but recklessly chooses not to isolate potentially infected patients.

You will need to retain experts not only on the question of whether your health care provider acted with gross negligence, but also the extent to which the gross negligence caused your harm. It may also be necessary to retain experts to testify on the scope and amount of damages.

Retain an Experienced Attorney in Chicago

If you were harmed due to a health care provider’s failure to isolate patients potentially infected with COVID-19, you should talk to the lawyers of Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. We handle claims by patients and their families in Aurora, Quincy, Chicago, Champaign, and Rockford, along with Winnebago, Cook, Adams, Sangamon, and Kane Counties. Call us at 800-444-1525 or 312-263-6330 or complete our online form.