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Woman Settles With County Over HIV Diagnosis

July 08, 2006|Juliet Chung | Times Staff Writer

A woman who alleged that she was wrongly diagnosed as HIV-positive at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center has reached a settlement with the county, lawyers for both sides said Friday.

Plaintiff Lynn Howard claimed the hospital's staff told her she was HIV-positive in October 2002, according to the lawsuit. She was told two years later that she was HIV-negative.

But county attorney Richard Reinjohn said hospital personnel never told Howard she was HIV-positive. Rather, he said, they told Howard an initial blood sample had tested positive for HIV and that the hospital would run a second, more complex test to confirm the initial results.

Reinjohn said Howard never returned to learn she was HIV-negative. Howard learned her true status when she went to the hospital two years later on an unrelated matter and got another blood test, he said.

"She should have come back to get the final results two years before," Reinjohn said. "The reason we settled is because the question is whether the county system should have picked up the fact that she never came back."

Victor Jacobovitz, Howard's lawyer, said he was pleased with the settlement because it saved Howard the stress of going through a trial.

"The old saying is a bad settlement is better than a good trial

Lawyers said the settlement was less than six figures but that the details were confidential. Reinjohn said county officials must still approve the settlement, but that he didn't expect problems.

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