$1.1 million awarded for false HIV diagnosis

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 08 2002 12:00 AM ET

A Richland County, S.C., jury has awarded $1.1 million to a woman who said Palmetto Health Richland Hospital misdiagnosed her with HIV infection. In her lawsuit, Melinda Medlin said the hospital--then called Richland Memorial Hospital--diagnosed her as HIV-positive in February 1994.

William Newman III, MD, said Medlin was more than 30 weeks' pregnant at the time, court papers show. For several years she took medications, including the drug AZT, her lawsuit states. She said she had no symptoms of the disease and that another test in 1998 by a different laboratory confirmed she had been misdiagnosed. Her condition was reported to "one or more" state or federal agencies, the lawsuit says.

Medlin said the misdiagnosis wrecked her life with "extreme depression, emotional distress, anxiety, fear, and other related trauma. I was so depressed, thinking I was going to die a horrible death. I gave up hope. Now I'm trying to get my life back together. I have lost so much of my life. I thank God every day for helping me find the mistake."

A jury agreed with her November 5, after deliberating about an hour following a two-day trial before circuit judge James Barber. In court papers the hospital contended it did not violate any standard of care. The hospital has asked the judge to reduce the award to $250,000 under the state's tort claims act, which limits damages against public entities. A ruling is pending.