The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the headlines for the past year, and has affected Washington, D.C. residents just as it has affected the rest of the nation. Many Washington, D.C. residents have fallen ill or even died from COVID-19, and many families are mourning loved ones but are unable to gather in-person to celebrate their lives. But amidst all this, personal injury accidents are still occurring in Washington, D.C. and across the nation—some totally separate from COVID-19 and some as a result. Some of these accidents, occurring in overcrowded and understaffed hospitals, raise questions about hospitals’ legal duty to protect patients.
For example, take a recent accident that made national headlines. According to the New York Times, an 82-year-old man was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital when he was bludgeoned to death with an oxygen tank by his roommate at the hospital, another COVID-19 patient. The men were sharing a two-person room, and the victim began to pray one morning, angering his 37-year-old roommate, who then struck him with an oxygen tank. He was pronounced dead the next morning. The roommate was arrested and charged with murder and elder abuse. Bail was set at $1 million.
This is not the first time someone has been killed in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals all across the country are overwhelmed, overcrowded, and understaffed, potentially setting the scene for incidents such as this. For example, the New York Times reports that in April of 2020, an 86-year-old woman died at a hospital when another patient shoved her for breaking social distancing guidelines.