Lab Worker Infects 30. One Incident Or 30?


Thirty patients sued Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire when they came down with hepatitis C.  The infection was traced to a single hospital lab employee, David Kwiatkowski.  (Needless to say, David is no longer with the hospital.)

That poses the question, one incident claim or 30?  You ask, who cares?  After all, assuming it’s liable, the hospital is responsible for the total damage suffered by all the patients.  And the total is the same whether there are thirty checks or one big check.

The answer is that the hospital’s insurance company cares, and that make the hospital care.  The insurance company cares because the deductible (the amount the hospital bears through self-insurance) is $1 million per incident and $4 million annual aggregate.  So if there was one incident, the hospital pays only the first $1 million, and the insurance company pays the rest.  If there were 30 incidents, the hospital pays the first $4 million.

The insurance company took the position that there were 30 separate incidents—what a surprise!–and made the hospital pay the first $4 million.  The hospital did so—reluctantly—and has now sued the insurance company to get its $3 million back.

The case is Exeter Hospital v. Steadfast Insurance, Rockingham County (NH) Superior Court.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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