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A New Jersey hospital that failed to inform one of its employees that she had tested positive for hepatitis C has been ordered by a jury to pay her $3 million. The gross negligence case against St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, filed in 1999, ended when a Passaic County, N.J., jury awarded Cheryl Diehl, 39, of Wayne, N.J., $1.5 million for the increased risk of health problems and $1.5 million for the emotional impact of the delay. The jury also awarded $580,000 to Diehl’s husband, Frank Diehl, for his potential risk of health problems and for his emotional pain. Cheryl Diehl, who had been a nurse at the St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., for 12 years, most likely contracted hepatitis C in 1991 after being stuck by a needle, said plaintiff’s counsel Adam Slater of Livingston, N.J.’s Nagel, Rice, Dreifuss and Mazie. Under hospital policy that obligates tests for employees exposed to potential diseases, Diehl was administered blood tests in 1992, 1997 and 1998. However, according to Slater, the hospital never told Diehl the test results. Diehl discovered these results in 1998, while randomly looking through her medical file. Slater said that the hospital had no formal written policy on the procedure of informing employees of their test results. Defense attorney Robert Baum of Hackensack, N.J.’s Hein, Smith, Berezin, Maloof & Jacobs did not return calls. The jury found for the Diehls because of the hospital’s role in their delay of notification, which exacerbated her injuries, according to Slater. Further, the jury found that the couple had suffered emotional distress as a result of learning of the delay and the possibility of Frank Diehl and their two children being infected. The couple had had the children during the time in which Diehl was infected. Frank Diehl and the two children have not tested positive. Although Diehl “was a compelling witness in this case,” Slater said, “the facts spoke for themselves.” The jury, he said, could see the emotional distress that Diehl and her family had suffered.

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