Some colleges require students to get vaccinations for meningitis when living in dorms, but vaccinations sometimes have limitations as a 2010 incident at Ohio University shows. The school settled a lawsuit for $1 million after an 18-year-old student died of bacterial meningitis, and the suit alleged that OU acted negligently and committed a breach of standard of care.
Previous cases of bacterial meningitis had been reported on the OU campus, but in 2009 officials agreed not to disclose that two students suffered from Strain B even though this strain is not prevented by the vaccine. Four other students also had Strain B, and one was diagnosed about a week before the 18-year-old freshman experienced chills, a headache and a stiff neck.
After also suffering from a fever, a medical assistant at the OU Hudson Health Center told the freshman by phone to rest, drink water and take Tylenol. She called an ambulance after worsening symptoms and died two days later after O'Bleness Memorial Hospital concluded she had meningitis. A doctor at the OU health center questioned whether the medical assistants and nurses could correctly identify students with measles in a 2010 court deposition. An attorney for the decedent's father claimed that the woman's death was preventable because there was a failure to warn students. According to court documents, the university claimed that the freshman did not consult an OU doctor and said negligence occurred at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital.
Medical facilities like a student health center can be held responsible when causing injuries or death because of issues like a medication error, misdiagnosis or staff error. As this case indicates, medical malpractice litigation is often complex and requires the use of expert testimony.
Source: Cleveland.com, "Ohio University pays $1 million to settle lawsuit after freshman from Cleveland Heights dies of bacterial meningitis", Karen Farkas, Feb. 10, 2015