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Family of Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan settles with hospital

Relatives of Thomas Eric Duncan announced Wednesday that they had settled all legal claims against the Dallas hospital where the Liberian man was treated and died of Ebola last month.

They said the agreement with Texas Health Presbyterian of Dallas and all others involved in treating Duncan, 42, includes a settlement with his parents and four children -- ages 12, 18, 19 and 22 -- as well as creating a charitable foundation to improve Ebola treatment in Africa.

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The hospital released a statement noting the matter had been "amicably resolved."

The parties did not disclose the amount of the settlement, although the family's attorney said the amount was comparable to what could have been obtained through a civil suit alleging gross negligence.

Texas caps malpractice awards for pain and suffering against a physician at $250,000 and damages against hospitals at $250,000 per hospital.

In addition to the settlement, the hospital has agreed not to charge the family for Duncan's care.

"We did what we needed to do to make sure Eric's death does not go in vain," said Duncan's nephew Josephus Weeks during a briefing with Duncan's sister at their Dallas attorney's office Wednesday.

Weeks, 43, a U.S. Army veteran from Kannapolis, N.C., will manage the charitable trust. He called the agreement "an outstanding deal."

Weeks had loudly criticized the hospital in the wake of his uncle's death, accusing it -- most notably in a Dallas Morning News opinion piece -- of mistreating Duncan because he was African and lacked medical insurance.

But on Wednesday, Weeks said he had had a change of heart after the hospital settled and its chief executive apologized to the family; the CEO also published a letter of apology in local newspapers.

"They've done a great job to make sure the family is taken care of, his kids are taken care of," Weeks said in the televised briefing. "That's why I changed my tone."

He said he hopes the foundation can build a facility to treat Ebola patients in Liberia.

"We made a mistake and we lost one, but we can save a thousand -- that is my goal," Weeks said.

Attorney Les Weisbrod said medical errors in Duncan's case were, "regardless of race, regardless of insurance coverage," caused by "policies and procedures not appropriately followed or not in place."

Duncan had been visiting his fiancee in Dallas when he became ill and sought treatment at the hospital's emergency room on Sept. 25.

Duncan told a nurse that he had recently been in Africa, but despite a 103-degree fever and what Weisbrod called "abnormal findings in his blood work," Duncan was misdiagnosed with sinusitis and sent home -- only to return in an ambulance three days later when he was diagnosed with Ebola and placed in isolation. He died Oct. 8.

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"Earlier diagnosis and treatment would have made a difference," Weisbrod said, adding that that was the conclusion of experts who reviewed Duncan's medical records at the lawyer's request

In the public apology published Oct. 19, hospital CEO Barclay Berdan acknowledged mistakes, including a miscommunication when Duncan first arrived at the emergency room and misdiagnosis.

In a Wednesday statement, hospital officials said they "have again extended our sincere apologies to the family and shared our regret that the diagnosis of Ebola virus disease was not made at the time of Mr. Duncan's initial Emergency Department visit." They also noted that Duncan's attorney had said his in-patient care was excellent.

Weisbrod said he and Weeks planned to meet with hospital officials Wednesday to discuss the charitable foundation, and that the hospital has been transparent about correcting problems that led to errors in Duncan's case.

"They're making the effort to try to prevent this from happening," he said.

Duncan's fiancee, Louise Troh, 54, who emerged healthy from a 21-day quarantine last month, was not included in the settlement because she is not considered a relative under Texas law, the attorney said.

Duncan's was the first Ebola case diagnosed in the U.S. Two nurses who treated him at the hospital -- Nina Pham, 26, and Amber Vinson, 29 -- were later diagnosed with Ebola, transported to other hospitals, treated, cleared and released. No other cases have been diagnosed in the Dallas area since, and those being monitored for exposure were all cleared as of last Friday.

Twitter: Follow @mollyhf for news from Texas and across the nation.

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