Touro Infirmary sued over Hurricane Katrina patient death; Defendants deny negligence

By Lizzy Fitzsousa | Apr 24, 2014

NEW ORLEANS – A local hospital is being sued over a patient's death during Hurricane Katrina.

Yvonne Ainsworth, on behalf of her mother Sylvia Taylor, filed suit against American Home Assurance Company, Health Care Casualty Insurance Limited, Aggreko LLC and Touro Infirmary in the Orleans Civil District Court on Jan. 23.

According to the suit, Taylor was a patient at Touro Infirmary during Hurricane Katrina and died after being exposed to high temperatures, unsanitary conditions and poor ventilation.

The suit claims that Aggreko had been contracted by Touro to provide a back-up generator and fuel tank, which was provided before the storm, but the fuel tank was not full.

Touro is accused of not purchasing additional fuel or testing the generator before the storm to ensure it worked. Touro is further accused of failure to properly prepare for the known potential consequences of hurricanes and floods, including loss of primary power, water and other public services.

Ainsworth alleges the back-up generators failed, and according to Touro’s CEO Mr. Leslie Hirsch, “the hospital suffered oppressive heat and humidity" and was “unbearably hot, especially for the patients.” The suit claims he stated “we could no longer provide basic services to safely care for our patients.”

The suit alleges that the defendants’ actions and inactions exposed Taylor to unreasonably dangerous conditions on Touro’s premises including extremely hot temperatures, inadequate ventilation, lack of provisions and unsanitary conditions, which rendered the facility unreasonably dangerous and caused cognizable harm to Taylor.

The plaintiff is represented by David S. Scalia and Melissa Debarbieris of Bruno & Bruno of New Orleans.

Aggreko answered the suit on Feb. 25 admitting that it agreed to provide a generator and spot coolers, but asserting it cannot be liable for Taylor’s damages because Touro’s cooling system, which Aggreko’s generator was to power, was unable to operate due to the lack of adequate water supply caused by the failure of the city water systems during the morning of Aug. 30, 2005.

Additionally, Aggreko’s generator was not intended to power anything above the third floor. Taylor was not located on any floor Aggreko was to power, the answer states. Aggreko further maintains it provided a working generator and was under no obligation to fill the external fuel tank based upon Touro’s alleged breach of contract. Aggreko claims it acted at all times with due care, is free from any and all negligence, complied with all applicable laws, regulations and standards.

Aggreko is represented by New Orleans area attorneys Sidney W. Degan, III, Mary K. Cryar, Ashley Gilbert and Travis L. Bourgeois.

Touro Infirmary is represented by Franklin D. Beahm of New Orleans-based Beahm & Green.

American Home Assurance Company answered the suit on March 25, admitting it issued a policy to Aggreko in effect from Oct. 1, 2004 to Oct. 1, 2005. It argues the incident was caused by an act of God, and furthermore the claims in the suit do not fall under a definition of bodily harm.

American Home Assurance is represented by Robert I Siegel of New Orleans-based Gieger, Laborde & Laperouse LLC.

The case is assigned to Division J Judge Paula A. Brown.

Case no. 2014-00889.

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