United States

Ebola Victim's Family, Dallas Hospital Reach Resolution

The family of Thomas Eric Duncan, the only Ebola patient to die in the United States, has settled its just-filed lawsuit against the Dallas hospital that treated him for an undisclosed sum.

The settlement will head off a lawsuit the family filed Tuesday, and will also create a charitable foundation in his name, the family's attorney said Wednesday.

Duncan died of Ebola on Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, after he contracted the deadly virus weeks earlier in his native Liberia.

Duncan was initially sent away from the hospital's emergency room with antibiotics, something hospital administrators have acknowledged was a mistake. He would return to the hospital in an ambulance two days after his release and was quickly diagnosed with possible signs of Ebola, which has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa.

Attorney Les Weisbrod declined to say how much the settlement was worth, but said it was a "very good deal" that would provide for Duncan's parents and his four children. Weisbrod also said the hospital was not charging Duncan's family for his medical treatment.

"We know that this has been a terribly sad, difficult and trying time for Mr. Duncan’s family and friends, and they will continue to be in the hearts and prayers of the entire Texas Health Presbyterian family," the hospital said in a statement Wednesday confirming the resolution.

Hospital officials stated they will also help honor Duncan’s memory by facilitating the creation of the Texas Health Dallas Thomas Eric Duncan Memorial Fund to provide assistance to victims of Ebola in Africa.

"We are grateful to reach this point of reconciliation and healing for all involved," the statement read.

Hospital officials apologized for releasing Duncan the first time, and after initially denying he had told them he was from West Africa, they acknowledged key caregivers missed his travel history in their record system.

Weisbrod and Duncan's nephew, Josephus Weeks, both credited Presbyterian's officials for moving quickly to settle the case and for acknowledging the hospital's mistakes.

"I believe this facility is an outstanding facility," Weeks said. "It's how you recover from an error that makes you who you are."

Duncan's family would have faced a very high bar had they filed a lawsuit against Presbyterian hospital. Texas medical malpractice law places a $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages related to pain and suffering in almost all cases.

It also gives extra protection to emergency room doctors and nurses. Instead of just proving that Duncan's doctors were negligent in his care, Duncan's family would have to prove that any negligence was "willful and wanton" -- essentially, that doctors knew they were causing harm when they treated Duncan.

"The standard of proof is gross negligence, which I believe we could have met in this case, but it's an onerous standard," Weisbrod said. He added that he believes the settlement is "as good or better" than if the family had filed a lawsuit.

Louise Troh, Duncan's fiancee, will not receive anything in the settlement, Weisbrod said.

A quick resolution to Duncan's case also benefits parent company Texas Health Resources, which faced weeks of negative publicity over its handling of the case and saw patient visits plummet immediately afterward.

Visits to Presbyterian's emergency room fell more than 50 percent during the first 20 days of October, and the hospital's overall patient census fell 21 percent.

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NBC 5's Frank Heinz and Todd L. Davis contributed to this report.

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