LifeSouth won't have to pay $8M in suit

Published: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 11:34 p.m.

Florida's Supreme Court has upheld a decision to overturn an $8 million verdict against LifeSouth Community Blood Centers.

The family of 7-year-old Chase Fitchner sued LifeSouth for negligence after the boy died due to complications from West Nile virus. He contracted the virus through a blood transfusion received in 2002, the suit alleged.

Chase was admitted to Shands at the University of Florida for treatment of anemia. During his hospital stay, he received numerous transfusions of blood collected by LifeSouth. He was discharged after several months in the hospital and later died.

The suit claimed that LifeSouth had been negligent in screening the donor who supplied the blood that infected Chase with West Nile virus and subsequently resulted in his death.

LifeSouth argued that as a community blood center, it was merely a supplier of blood and did not provide diagnosis, treatment or care to those who received its blood products while hospitalized.

Therefore, the center said in its case, it should not be held to the legal standards governing medical malpractice.

At the time of Chase's transfusion, there was no test to screen for West Nile virus in donated blood. Two such screening tests are now in regular use.

"The death (of Chase Fitchner) was a tragedy, but LifeSouth did nothing wrong and this case should never have gone to trial," LifeSouth CEO Nancy Eckert said last week. "This decision by the Florida Supreme Court comes as a great relief."

Contact Diane Chun at 374-5041 or by e-mail at

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