An infectious case of "pink eye" landed trash man George Eddings nearly $25,000 as the trial of Eddings vs. Hospital Housekeeping Systems ended Thursday, Dec. 6.
Eddings, a Gulf Coast Waste Services employee, was sprayed in the face with blood in 2003 while removing a bale of flattened cardboard boxes from Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Jurors were asked to determine if the alleged negligence of Hospital Housekeeping Systems (HHS) caused the incident. The trial began Monday, Dec. 3, in Judge Donald Floyd's 172nd District Court.
According to Eddings' testimony and court documents, the incident occurred on Feb. 14, 2003. Eddings had picked up the load of cardboard with a forklift and was about to place them on his truck when a strong gust of wind swept over the boxes.
"The wind had blown the blood (onto) my face," Eddings testified. "At first I thought is was water. I went to the bathroom and washed my face with a paper towel and saw it was blood."
Eddings continued by saying that he "didn't think much of" the incident until two weeks later when he started developing an eye infection.
Three months after the incident, Eddings filed suit against Christus St. Elizabeth and Hospital Housekeeping Systems, Inc. in the Jefferson County District Court, claiming the companies illegally disposed of hazardous waste.
Eddings and his lawyer, Adam Terrell, argued HHS committed several Texas Health and Safety Code violations by storing a plastic sack of blood in with the cardboard.
However the defendants argued there was no proof that an open container of blood was amid the boxes and that Eddings' conjunctivitis could have been caused by any number of things – and if Eddings had indeed been exposed to blood, he was negligent for waiting weeks before seeking treatment.
Jurors awarded Eddings $24,500 for past mental anguish and $450 for past medical expenses.
A year before the start of the trial, Christus' attorneys requested a motion summary judgment. Floyd dismissed Christus as defendant.
In his order, signed Feb. 27, 2006, Floyd wrote, "It is ordered, adjudged and decreed that plaintiff, George Eddings take nothing against Christus Health Southeast Texas, and all claims filed against Christus…are dismissed with prejudice."
According to Eddings' petition, he was a Gulf Coast Waste Services employee working at Christus St. Elizabeth as a subcontractor.
"While going about plaintiff's assigned duties, plaintiff sustained…injuries to his face, eyes, head, neck, shoulder and body due to defendant's improper and illegal disposal of hazardous waste, including…infected, spoiled and contaminated fluids," the suit said.
Eddings made a claim and received workers' compensation and medical benefits after the injury.
In his suit, Eddings claims HHS was negligent for failing to supervise him, inspect the premises, warn him of the dangerous condition, provide him with a safe place to work and knowingly violating the Texas Health Code.
Eddings petition had asked jurors to award him punitive and exemplary damages, plus damages for past and future mental anguish, physical pain, lost earnings, medical expenses and impairment.
"Plaintiff would show that he sustained mental anguish of an almost incalculable nature," the suit said.
Terrell is an attorney for the Weller, Green, Toups & Terrell law firm.
The defense was represented by attorney Kevin Hood of the Fabrega, Hood, Raynes & Fass law firm.
Case No. E-170-031