Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)1 Jan 98


   Quick Summary: The soft triple-lumen catheter the nurses left in the chest of the diseased was incapable of cutting anyone, contrary to what the undertaker claimed in his lawsuit.

   The undertaker could not say that he had examined the corpse to identify the alleged piece of tubing or other object so sharp as to penetrate through the heavy plastic wrapping on the deceased as well as the undertaker’s own double gloves.

   A jury should not be given the chance to speculate that it was the hospital’s negligence that caused the undertaker’s injury. NEW YORK SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, 1997.


   An undertaker sued the hospital claiming that while he was unwrapping the shrouded body forty hours after the patient had died from AIDS, he cut himself on a plastic catheter protruding from the corpse, and suffered "AIDS phobia" as a result. The undertaker tested negative for HIV at two months, five months and three years after the alleged event.

   The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, threw out the case. There was no negligence involved in this patient’s post-mortem care in leaving a soft plastic catheter protruding from the chest of the body, since there was no way, in the court’s opinion, for a person later handling the body to be injured from it.

   Since the undertaker could not identify with reasonable certainty how he cut himself handling the body, he could not prove the actual or probable presence of HIV on the specific object that cut him. The court pointed out this fact as additional grounds for refusing to hold the hospital liable. Lombardo vs. New York University Medical Center, 663 N.Y.S. 2d 295 (N.Y. App., 1997).