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Posted February 13, 2004 | Leave a comment
Anthrax victim seeks $12 million from government
By Charlotte J. Eller
A Winchester man is seeking $12 million from the federal government, claiming that negligence by the Departments of State and Defense and the U.S. Army resulted in his infection with deadly anthrax spores.
The agencies have until mid-April to rule on the damage claim submitted by David R. Hose Sr., 61, an employee of a firm that handles diplomatic pouches and mail under contract for the U.S. State Department in Sterling.
He was exposed to anthrax in letters that passed through the facility in October 2001.
Some of the maladies nearly claimed his life in 2001 when he was admitted to Winchester Medical Center with anthrax. He was discharged from the hospital in early November 2001.
In October 2002, he again was hospitalized, spending two months battling pneumonia, lung blood clots and related ailments stemming from anthrax exposure.
In late December 2002, he was admitted for three more weeks for blood clots in his lungs.
If the claim, which was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, is denied or not acted upon, the door is open for a lawsuit, said Tim Dole, an attorney with the Baltimore firm of Schulman, Treem, Kaminkow, Gilden and Ravenell.
Listed among potential witnesses in Hose's claim is Steven J. Hatfill, a Fort Detrick scientist whom the FBI says is of interest in its anthrax investigation. Hatfill strongly maintains his innocence and has never been charged in the case.
"This is going to be a huge case," Dole said. "I feel very strongly that David has been severely wronged, not only by the anthrax mailer but by the failure of the government to compensate him for his injuries."
The personal injury claim says federal officials were negligent. The military failed to institute adequate security measures for proper handling of weapons-grade anthrax spores, while the State Department "failed to enforce established health and safety measures at the mail sorting facility where Mr. Hose worked."
"Either safeguard could have readily prevented Mr. Hose's injuries," which were severe, the document says.
The claim by Hose, one of six inhalation anthrax survivors in the nation's worst bioterrorism incident, "is particularly compelling," the claim says. No arrests have been made in the case.
The anthrax that infected Hose was "likely produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., or another laboratory participating in the Defense Department's germ warfare program," Hose's attorneys say.
They attribute the claim to geneticist Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., which used DNA testing to track the source of the weapons-grade anthrax spores known as the "Ames strain."
Whoever sent the anthrax-laced letter that infected Hose obtained the deadly spores because the government failed to keep track of its own biological weapons, his attorneys say.
The Defense Department "negligently failed to take sufficient steps to properly monitor, maintain, store, account for, transport, identify and/or secure the anthrax spores that were grown and used for experiments on premises under its control," the document says.
The Defense Department is accused of distributing spore samples without proper security procedures, the attorneys allege in the claim.
The claim also charges the General Accounting Office reported security weaknesses in the Pentagon's Internet sales of surplus biological and chemical laboratory equipment.
Another cause of Hose's severe injuries was State Department negligence in implementing procedures for routinely cleaning mail-sorting equipment, according to his attorneys.
As late as early October 2001, the machines were reportedly still being cleaned with compressed air -- rather than vacuuming -- disregarding well-established health standards, the claim says.
That way, the anthrax spores from contaminated mail were carried on dust particles.
"What makes the negligence ... particularly egregious ... is that in the days prior to his inhalation of anthrax, it was already known envelopes containing spores had been mailed, that they posed a potentially deadly threat ... and that someone had already died as a result."
State Department staffers also have been accused of not distributing the medication Cipro to mailroom employees until after Hose's attack.
Among Virginia's political leaders strongly interested in the case is Rep. Frank R. Wolf, in whose district Hose lives. But a State Department spokesman refused to answer Wolf's questions about it, saying they could not comment until the claims review is done, according to Wolf's office.
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