The family of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan announced a confidential settlement Wednesday with Texas Health Resources and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas that will provide for Duncan’s four children and his parents and will start a foundation in his name.
“This deal we reached is an outstanding deal, and we have a foundation that needs our support,” Duncan’s nephew Josephus Weeks said at a news conference at the Dallas offices of attorney Les Weisbrod, who is representing the family.
The settlement averts a malpractice lawsuit, Weisbrod said.
Duncan died of Ebola at the Dallas hospital Oct. 8. On his first visit to the emergency room Sept. 25, he was misdiagnosed with a sinus infection and sent home with antibiotics even though he had a 103-degree fever and told workers he had been in Africa.
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The hospital, in a separate statement Wednesday, again apologized to the family for the misdiagnosis. The apparent miscommunication ultimately resulted in 177 people being quarantined.
Two nurses at the hospital contracted Ebola from Duncan after he was admitted Sept. 28, and the possible contacts grew as one nurse, Amber Vinson, was allowed to fly to Ohio and back.
Even a dog — a spaniel belonging to nurse Nina Pham, who grew up in Fort Worth — wound up in quarantine. Both nurses survived, and the dog, Bentley, is Ebola-free.
Before he left Liberia, Duncan had aided a pregnant neighbor, who died of Ebola hours later. He had said he didn’t know he was exposed when he went to Presbyterian.
Weeks thanked the hospital “for stepping up and owning up to their mistakes and doing the right thing.”
“If I got sick and Presbyterian was close to me, I would go there and get treated for it,” he said.
Presbyterian and THR, its parent company, are helping to create the Texas Health Dallas Thomas Eric Duncan Memorial Fund to assist Ebola victims in Africa, where the disease has infected about 13,000 people and killed nearly 5,000.
The amount of the settlement is confidential, but Weisbrod said he is confident that it is more than the family would have won in court because of constraints in Texas law. The law caps damages for pain and suffering and loss of love and companionship at $250,000, according to a statement from the lawyer.
The settlement includes the creation of the charitable trust; a settlement with THR “and all related entities including the ER physicians group that was involved in this”; a private letter of apology from the CEO of THR; and the changes in policies and procedures that were previously announced by the hospital.
Weeks would like a state-of-the-art Ebola treatment center built in Liberia in Duncan’s memory.
Weisbrod said he thought he had the basis for a successful malpractice lawsuit because “the initial treatment in the emergency room was such that it would meet the standard of gross negligence” and because some experts said earlier diagnosis and treatment might have made a difference.
The settlement will benefit Duncan’s 22-year-old daughter in Liberia; two sons, an 18-year-old in North Carolina and Karsiah Duncan, 19, who is attending Angelo State University in San Angelo; a 12-year-old daughter in Ghana; Duncan’s mother in North Carolina; and his father in Liberia.
But Louise Troh, the woman Thomas Eric Duncan came to Dallas to marry, will receive no part of the settlement, Weisbrod said.
“Mr. Duncan’s fiancee unfortunately is not included in this because the law doesn’t give any rights in these kinds of cases to fiancees,” Weisbrod said. “The law in the state of Texas and everywhere requires that there be an actual spouse to recover, or a child or parents. With regard to a malpractice claim, she doesn’t have any legal right, unfortunately.”