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Asthma is a rather common form of lung disease that results in difficulty breathing, pain, and other symptoms. Left untreated, it can result in death. Asthma attacks kill thousands every year. Fortunately, asthma sufferers are often able to alleviate symptoms by using inhalers and other medications.
In limited circumstances, an asthma misdiagnosis, or failing to provide asthma medication, can lead to legal liability. Some examples of when a person may be able to sue for an asthma-related injury are listed here:
Asthma is generally attributed to a combination of genetics and environmental factors, and the symptoms often overlap with chronic bronchitis. As such, asthma is commonly misdiagnosed. Whether this misdiagnosis would rise to the level of legal liability for malpractice will depend entirely on the facts of the particular misdiagnosis.
If an asthma inhaler, or the medication, is defective, a person who suffers an injury as a result will likely have a product liability, defective device, claim.
Environmental Cause of Asthma
Since it is generally accepted that environmental factors can cause asthma, particularly in children, gross polluters and others that cause those environmental factors, can be held liable for causing asthma and other respiratory injuries. These types of cases, often referred to as toxic torts, can be rather challenging and often involve multiple claims linking the environmental factor to the injuries or diagnoses. Famously, the movie Erin Brockovich showed the world how difficult a mass toxic tort case can be.
Institutional Negligence and Inmate Mistreatment
When a person is in an institution such as a prison, school, or hospital, where their access to medication is restricted, the institution can be held liable for failing to provide their medicine in a timely fashion. However, while a school or hospital will be held to a lower negligence standard in these types of cases, prison inmates will generally need to file civil rights claims for the denial of in-custody medical treatment.
Recently, there have been media reports out of Arkansas and California of prison inmates that died because they were denied their asthma medications. These tragic, and easily preventable, deaths are clear violations of an inmate's right to receive necessary medical care.