A man has been given the green light by the DC Court of Appeals to sue a health care provider who misdiagnosed him as HIV+ five years ago. His lawsuit alleging negligence had previously been thrown out of court for not meeting a "zone of physical danger" standard.
The original three judge panel found that Terry Hedgepeth couldn't sue because he wasn't physically harmed by the diagnosis. If he had taken HIV medications, the court said, he would have been able to sue, but based on previous malpractice cases the man wasn't physically in danger.
Hedgepeth argued that after learning he was HIV+ he engaged in risky behavior like drug use and having sex unprotected sex with HIV+ women. The stress of his diagnosis led to multiple mental breakdowns that resulted in hospital stays.
"Because care for the body and the emotions are so interlinked, and patients often are dependent on their physicians' exercise of due care, they therefore are susceptible to suffer emotionally as well as physically as a result of their physicians' negligence," the DC appeals court opinion stated.
Hedgepeth is suing the Whitman-Walker clinic for $20 million.