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Can I sue the hospital for the death of my brother-in-law due to COVID-19?

Asked by user in Alabama.

My brother-in-law was hospitalized and in the ICU in November. He was discharged but had to return 3 days later and was then diagnosed with COVID-19. He had only been with my sister and the hospital staff, and my sister tested positive for COVID 3 days later. He remained in the hospital for 21 days and then passed away. My brother-in-law was wheelchair-bound and must have caught COVID while in the hospital. Does my sister have a case against the hospital for that?

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

I am so sorry to hear about your brother-in-law’s passing. This has been a very difficult year for so many people. Unfortunately, it would be difficult for your sister to bring a successful lawsuit against the hospital. There are a couple of factors that would complicate her case:

  1. She would need to prove that he became infected with COVID-19 in the hospital. Although he hadn’t been around anyone other than your sister outside the hospital, she could’ve become infected by someone else (at the supermarket, or anyplace she might have been) and brought it home to him. And, even if she wasn’t anywhere else, it would be hard to prove how he became infected.
  2. She would need to prove negligence on the part of the hospital staff, and that their negligence caused your brother-in-law to become infected with COVID-19. That means she would need to know that one of the doctors, nurses, or other staff who were in contact with your brother had the virus during the timeframe when he could’ve been infected (which could be a 2-week period between contact and symptoms) and that they were not taking the appropriate precautions during that time. For instance, if a nurse had COVID-19 and treated your brother-in-law while she wasn’t wearing a face covering during the time when he could have become infected, that might be negligence if that whole string of events (nurse had COVID, had direct contact with your brother-in-law, didn’t wear a face covering) can be proven.

If she has evidence that points to negligence on the part of hospital staff, perhaps she could bring a claim. But it would still be a challenge to prove how he became infected.

Best of luck. Again, I am so sorry for your and your sister’s loss.

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