Family of Tennessee Woman Who Received Blood Transfusion Contaminated With HIV Granted $4.36 Million in Damages
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 20 that Vanderbilt University must pay $4.36 million in damages to the family of a woman who died of AIDS-related complications eight years after receiving blood contaminated with HIV through a transfusion at the university's medical center, the Nashville Tennessean reports. Julie Amos received a blood transfusion in 1984 -- shortly before the Red Cross began screening donated blood for HIV -- after undergoing jaw surgery, but was not told that the blood might be infected with the virus. Amos did not know she had the transfusion and did not learn she was HIV-positive until her baby daughter died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1989. In 1998, a circuit court jury in Davidson County, Tenn., awarded $4.36 million in damages to Amos' estate and her husband, Ronald Amos, but a panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals reduced the damages to $32,884 -- the costs associated with the birth and death of Amos' daughter. The appellate court ruled that the Vanderbilt medical center "did not have a duty to warn" Ronald Amos of the risks of Julie Amos' transfusion because VUMC "could not have foreseen" that the two would marry and have a child after her surgery. The Supreme Court, however, unanimously ruled that the medical center "had a duty to warn Julie Amos that the blood she received ... could have been tainted" with HIV. The court added that warning Julie Amos of the risks of the transfusion could have allowed her to protect herself against transmitting the virus to anyone else. Julie and Ronald Amos had also sued the Red Cross over the blood transfusion, but that suit ended in an out-of-court settlement (Loggins, Nashville Tennessean, 12/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.