Amputee Sues for Emotional Distress After Leg Thrown In Garbage
In Miami, an amputee is suing a south Florida hospital after surgeons removed his leg. However, the case isn’t for medical malpractice. The amputee is suing for the negligent infliction of emotional distress the hospital caused him when he discovered that his amputated leg had been disposed improperly: it was thrown into the garbage.
Leg Discovered In Garbage, Believed a Homicide
The 56-year-old had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. The operation at the Coral Gables hospital went without incident. However, waste management workers discovered the leg at their facility some time later. Finding a leg in a dumpster indicated a potential homicide, so the case was turned over to homicide detectives. The leg still had tags attached connecting it to the amputee, and the detectives contacted the amputee with the shocking information. He actually first found out about the situation when he answered the door, and the homicide detectives answered, believing that he could be dead.
The man says he tried to reach out to the hospital informally, and give them a chance to explain themselves and try to make the situation right. Unfortunately, however, the hospital apparently refused to explain to the amputee how this could have happened. Florida law requires that hospitals dispose of amputated limbs properly, and they are typically incinerated. Today, the hospital insists that it has “reinforced” its current procedures, in order to prevent this from ever happening again.
Seeking Compensation for Embarrassment, Loss of Privacy
The lawsuit describes the act of throwing the amputee’s leg in the garbage as “beyond the bounds of human decency.” In order to be successful, the suit must prove that the hospital’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous,” and that it resulted in severe emotional distress. This has historically been a high bar to pass. Typically, courts prefer to see physical symptoms such as nausea, or testimony from a psychiatrist. It is unclear whether the distress was directly caused by discovering that his leg had been discarded in the trash, or because police had been contacting his relatives, informing them that he may have been dead. At a minimum, however, the man claims he suffered embarrassment, humiliation, and an invasion of privacy.
In that regard, there is another potential avenue for this lawsuit to proceed. Because the hospital left the identification tags on, the hospital may have violated privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Typically, to release information, the hospital would have had to obtain the amputee’s signed approval. It is unlikely that they obtained the man’s approval for this unorthodox disposal procedure.
Receiving proper medical care is about more than just obtaining an accurate diagnosis and ensuring you receive proper surgery and prescriptions. Health care providers have access to your private information and, in this case, even parts of your body. In Florida, if a health care provider abuses their access to your information, you may be able to fight back. Contact Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice and personal injury attorney Scott Newmark today for a consultation.