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Personal injury or workers' compensation claim: court to choose

Workers' compensation law can be unsettled because elements and employee context are somewhat fluid. Some situations and conditions are specifically addressed with established workers' comp benefit parameters. Others fall into a gray area that requires some application of the law to determine how to handle a unique claim. Occasionally, workers' compensation and personal injury considerations must be decided by the court.

A well-known national case is reportedly in the midst of this question now. Court records show that a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus from a patient she treated can't sue the hospital for which she worked through a personal injury claim, according to the defendant hospital officials. They have asked the court to dismiss her lawsuit with prejudice and to refer her claims to the state's Workers' Compensation Board.

According to reports, hospital officials assert that legal defenses don't apply in this case. Their position is that her exclusive remedies are under workers' compensation law, and the court has no jurisdiction. The plaintiff doesn't dispute that she is a subscriber to workers' compensation coverage, however, she had hoped the hospital would be honest about alleged mistakes made that caused her exposure within that healthcare community. She maintains the defendants' legal position doesn't apply in her case, and it confirms her lawsuit is necessary to shine a light on the facts. She and another nurse working at the facility reportedly contracted the deadly disease, and the plaintiff in the subject case allegedly faces continued future health concerns and career stumbling blocks she wants addressed in court.

In addition to the negligence cause of action contained in the victim's lawsuit, breach of privacy is alleged. The plaintiff contends the viral video released to the public showing her in a hospital bed receiving treatment for the disease was done so without her permission.

There are times when workers' compensation and personal injury claims are straightforward. Other times, the issues become more complex as legal options are evaluated and applications of the laws are considered, making it important to consider the matter from multiple sides.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Hospital, Nurse Fight Over Ebola Claim," David Lee, April. 07, 2015

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