Yes, but you have to follow the requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act. A recent case out of a court in Oregon shows how you can get a successful verdict against the United States for negligence of nurses and doctors at a federally funded health care facility.
On November 12, 2013 John Smith transferred his medical care to La Clinica dal Valley Family Health. On this day Mr. Smith established care for his diabetes with a Family Nurse Practitioner, he also reported that he had a history of multiple Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus rash outbreaks, also called MRSA. On November 22nd Mr. Smith returned with complaints of an infection on his head and reported history of his wife having MRSA. He was seen by another FNP who prescribed a medication that is used to treat MRSA. On December 3rd Mr. Smith returned with complaints of a lesion on the back of his neck, stating that he hasn’t had a culture on it, but his wife had been diagnosed with MRSA. His blood sugar was low and the records show he was only treated for problems related to diabetes. On December 16th Mr. Smith returned, the nurse intake reported MRSA on the back of his neck. The FNP called a doctor to look at Mr. Smith and they agreed on the diagnosis of cellulitis. Mr. Smith returned three days later and a culture was taken of the wound. On December 23rd the FNP drained the wound using a blunt instrument. On December 26th he returned reporting severe back pain and that afternoon the culture came back confirming MRSA. On December 28th, after progressive weakness and pain, Mr. Smith was taken by ambulance to Providence hospital. Mr. Smith spent the next two months in the hospital with serious complications and was left partially quadriplegic.
In his complaint Mr. Smith alleges that La Clinca’s care providers were negligent in failing to recognize the history of MRSA, failing to have it seen by a doctor more than once, failing to drain or treat it correctly, and failure to recognize that the infection had spread into the patient’s blood. Roseanne Velez and Dr. David Talan, offered expert testimony that critical errors were made with respect to the care of Mr. Smith. They both agreed that if he had received proper care and a proper diagnosis Mr. Smith would not be in the position he is today.
The total damages amounted to $12,647,009.10.
Mr. Smith was awarded damages in past medical expenses at $1,847,009.06. As for future medical expenses both the Plaintiff and Defendant brought expert testimony. After consideration the Court calculated future medical costs at roughly $3,800,000. Mr. Smith alleged because of the negligence of La Clinica he is now unable to work, testimony was brought from both sides about the inconsistent employment of Mr. Smith and what his earnings would be if he had or had not gone back to work. The Court determined this was too speculative and did not award damages for loss of earning capacity. The Court noticed through his testimony that Mr. Smith was emotionally impacted by the negligence of La Clinica, but was able to keep a admirable attitude about his recovery and life after the incident. Based on all evidence submitted Mr. Smith was awarded $7,000,000 in non-economic damages.