Needle stick suit: judgment for RN & employer upheld.

Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Position:Nursing Law Case on Point - Case overview

CASE ON POINT: Scott v. Retz, 49A. 05-0904-CV-192 (11/10/2009)-IN

CASE FACTS: George Scott, a Clarian Health Partner, Inc., (Clarian) safety and security investigator, was stuck by a used uncapped needle while investigating a missing narcotics complaint at Indiana University Hospital, which was operated by Clarian. Scott sued Malissa Retz, a Registered Nurse, for negligence and Indiana University (IU), Retz's employer, under the theory of Respondeat Superior, and negligent retention and supervision of the nurse. In 2007, Retz was the subject of disciplinary action by the Indiana State Board of Nursing (Board). On May 16, 2007, she admitted that when renewing her nursing license she falsely stated, under penalty of perjury, that she had not been terminated from professional employment when, in fact, she had been terminated from previous employment following an incident in which she improperly possessed morphine tablets while at work. For four to six weeks prior to May 31, 2007, the nurse had been injecting herself with Demerol, improperly accessed through her position with IU. On May 30, 2007, Bernard Harris, a Clarian safety and security investigator, began investigating whether Nurse Retz was improperly diverting narcotics from the hospital. Harris met with Retz's supervisor, Nurse Sherry Wilson. Wilson told Retz about the investigation. Wilson and Nurse Laurie Trevino attempted to escort Retz for drug testing, but Retz left work without authorization and could not be located. Wilson, concerned for Retz's safety, contacted local police to ensure that Nurse Retz arrived home safely. On May 31, 2007, Retz reported for work. She stole morphine from an AccuDose room at the hospital, injected herself with the morphine, and disposed of the used, uncapped needles, syringes, and empty vials in a trash container in a women's rest room at the hospital. Retz confessed this apparent suicide attempt to Trevino and Wilson. Wilson escorted Retz to the hospital's ED. Retz told Wilson and others the used needles, syringes, and empty vials were still in the women's rest room trash can. The used, uncapped needles ended up in a brown paper bag that was delivered to the ED and given to the emergency department physician attending Retz. The physician "put the bag to the side in the [ED]." When Wilson left the ED the bag "was still in the examination room where Ms. Retz was." Ultimately, George Scott took custody of the bag and was stuck by a needle inside the...

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