The nursing community has been on edge awaiting the sentencing of Radonda Vaught, a former Tennessee nurse who was recently convicted of negligent homicide for her role in the death of a patient she was treating at a nursing home. Criminal prosecutions for medication errors are rare, and generally reserved for situations where the conduct of the defendant was grossly negligent, egregious, and preventable. A national news source recently published an article discussing the sentence that the former nurse Ms. Vaught was given, as well as the case as a whole and the effect that Vaught’s prosecution may have on the nursing home industry.
According to the facts discussed in the news report, Ms. Vaught was convicted of negligent homicide in March of 2022 based on the death of a patient she was caring for in 2017 at a nursing home. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Vaught was criminally negligent when she inadvertently gave her patient a tranquilizer instead of an anti-anxiety medication (the medications had similar sounding names). The dose of the tranquilizer that was given by Ms. Vaught to her patient was unsafe, and ultimately resulted in the patient’s death. The prosecution argued that serious criminal penalties were warranted because several warning signs were ignored, and Ms. Vaught overrode an automated medication dispensing system that would have prevented the mix-up.
After considering arguments from both sides, as well as testimony from the widower and children of the deceased patient, the judge decided to sentence Ms. Vaught to three years of probation in lieu of prison time. Although Ms. Vaught will avoid prison, she has already faced serious consequences for her mistake, as her nursing license was recently revoked based upon the incident. The article noted that the children of the deceased patient testified that their mother was a very forgiving person, and would not want Ms. Vaught to serve prison time for her mistake.
Although the criminal case has concluded and Ms. Vaught will begin serving her sentence shortly, the families of the victim remain entitled to seek civil compensation for their loss. Ms. Vaught may be liable for medical malpractice or wrongful death as a consequence of her negligence. Although the burden of proof is lower in a civil case than for a criminal prosecution, there is no guarantee that the family of the deceased patient will receive a settlement or judgment from the civil case. They must make their case to a different finder of fact, and there could be a different result in the end.
Do Criminal Cases Affect the Outcome of a Personal Injury Case?
No, the outcome of a criminal case does not affect any subsequent personal injury cases, at least not in every case. The criminal justice system and the civil justice system are distinct and criminal cases must be proven to a higher degree of certainty than personal injury cases. Thus, even if a defendant is not criminally charged, or is not convicted after trial, a victim can still pursue a personal injury claim.
Finding Your DC, Maryland, or Virginia Pharmacy Error Attorney
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a pharmacy error or medication mix-up, you should be entitled to compensation from the responsible parties. Reach out to an experienced Maryland, Virginia, or D.C. pharmacy malpractice attorney with Lebowitz & Mzhen to start the process toward obtaining relief. Our attorneys represent clients from throughout the DMV region in many sorts of medical tort cases, including pharmacy error and wrongful death claims. Contact us to schedule a no obligation consultation with an experienced attorney today. Call now at 800-654-1949 to schedule a free consultation.