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Yale appeals verdict in Dr. Doe case

Yale Medicine Magazine, 1998 - Summer


In December a New Haven jury awarded $12.2 million to a former medical resident who became HIV-positive after an accidental needle stick in 1988. The resident, known in court documents as “Dr. Doe,” sued Yale, alleging that inadequate training and supervision caused the accident. The University is appealing the verdict.

Dr. Doe, then 25, was a first-year resident seven weeks into her internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital when she pricked her right thumb while inserting a line into the artery of a patient with AIDS. Dr. Doe said she had tried the procedure only three times before the accident and that the supervising physician, a third-year resident, failed to monitor the procedure properly.

The University is challenging the jury's verdict in two areas. First, its appeal argues that Connecticut law does not recognize such a claim for educational malpractice. It also argues that the University should not be held liable because, as an employee and resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Dr. Doe's exclusive remedy is a workers' compensation claim rather than a civil suit. Dr. Doe is already receiving workers' compensation benefits through the hospital. Both sides in the case expect to file briefs this summer and present arguments later this year.

As of December 1996, 52 health care workers around the country had acquired HIV through occupational transmission, 24 of whom developed AIDS, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Another 111 may have acquired HIV on the job, but the source of transmission hasn't been determined in those cases, according to the CDC.

Contributors: Susan Alksnis, Cynthia Atwood, John Curtis, Michael Fitzsousa, Katie Krauss, Helaine Patterson, Karen Peart, Marc Wortman.