Test your Knowledge of Torts


DutyOfCare

The Hammond County Department of Health offered H1N1 vaccinations at mass public clinics for those individuals between 6 months old and 24 years of age. KaLia, a young woman of 23, recently had arrived from Laos and spoke no English. She spoke only the Hmong language. None of the members of her host family or her friends spoke any of the Hmong language. KaLia and her American friend went to one of Hammond County's mass vaccination sites. Each person in line to receive the vaccination was asked to read and sign a consent form that outlined the possible risks or side effects of receiving the vaccine, including, "in extremely rare cases (less than 0.5%), the possibility of significant nerve damage and even paralysis, which in a few cases may be permanent, from Guillain-Barré syndrome." The consent form was only in English and Spanish, but the Department of Health of Hammond County, a highly affluent county that prized its commitment to diversity, had nurses present that could speak not only English, but also Spanish, Korean, the more common Chinese dialects, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Igbo, Swahili, Yoruba, French, Russian, Farsi, and Arabic. No one spoke Hmong.

When the written consent form was presented to KaLia, her accompanying friend simply handed her a pen and pointed to the signature line. KaLia signed her name. She then raised her arm to have it vaccinated. KaLia, unfortunately, ended up as the rare individual who all the experts agreed suffered from the Guillain-Barré syndrome and was permanently paralyzed below the waist. She and her attorney have sued the Hammond County Health Department.

You work as a law clerk for the judge handling the case. The Hammond County Department of Health has filed a motion for a summary judgment claiming that any claims against them are barred by KaLia's signature on the consent form and her offering her arm to those administering the vaccine. Please analyze the legal issues and make a recommendation to the judge.


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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved