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Jury Awards $20,000 to Nurse Stuck by Needle from HIV Positive Prisoner

On November 26, 2003, a Massachusetts jury awarded a nurse at a medical center, which treated prisoners from a nearby Worcester County prison, $20,000 for emotional distress that resulted from being stuck by a needle from an HIV positive prisoner. The nurse sued, under a negligent supervision theory, the guard responsible for supervising the prisoner.

The guard was supposed to remain with the prisoner at all times during treatment. The prisoner, who was known to be HIV positive, removed an I.V. needle from his arm and clipped it to the I.V. pole. When the nurse reached up to change the prisoner's I.V. bag, she was stuck by the needle.

The nurse underwent between four to six months of psychotherapy to deal with the anxiety and emotional distress surrounding her potential infection with HIV, which required monthly HIV testing. Ultimately, the nurse did not contract HIV.

The guard contended he was not responsible for the nurse's emotional distress because he was unaware the prisoner had removed the I.V. Moreover, the nurse should have been more vigilant in the performance of her job and she should have seen the I.V. needle on the I.V. pole before changing the bag. The jury found the guard negligent in supervising the prisoner and awarded the nurse $20,000. The award, however, was reduced to $10,200 because the jury found the nurse 49% comparatively negligent. The nurse was represented by Meletios Chachrone of Worcester. See: Bourassa v. Figuera, Worcester County Court, Case No: WOCV1995-00531.

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Related legal case

Bourass v. Figuera