It was only a matter of time before the lawsuits would go flying. The family of the assistant principal who was New York City’s first swine flu victim has filed court papers with the intention of suing the city and its health and education departments. No doubt there will be others as the pandemic unfolds.
Mitchell Wiener’s widow and three sons said in a notice of claim last week that they intend to file a $40 million wrongful death lawsuit. The notice claims the city was negligent in failing to quickly report the outbreak and failing to warn Weiner that he’d been exposed to the virus. It also claims the city didn’t do its best to control the outbreak.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg says “the city didn’t do anything wrong.” He says the city has an obligation to keep schools open, and he’s sorry Wiener died.
Wiener, who worked at Intermediate School 238 in Queens, died on May 17 after succumbing to H1N1 virus. Wiener, who had been hospitalized and placed on a ventilator, had been sick with the new flu strain for nearly a week before his school was closed three days before his death. Complications besides the virus likely played a part in his death, officials said.
But Wiener’s family insisted in May he was only being treated for gout. His wife, Bonnie Wiener, lashed out at city officials for not closing the school, when students were first diagnosed with swine flu.
“They can close because of snow, but not because of an illness that can be potentially deadly?” Mrs. Wiener said then.
Wiener was hired as a substitute teacher in March 1978, then as a mathematics teacher, working in that position until 2007. Since then, Wiener had been employed as an assistant principal at I.S. 238, also known as the Susan B. Anthony Intermediate School, in the Hollis neighborhood.
Most people sickened from the swine flu, or the H1N1 virus, have complained of mild, seasonal flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue.