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‘TB Lawyer’ Fights to Regain Practice

Posted Sep 10, 2007 5:17 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Less than six months ago, life seemed good for Andrew H. Speaker, even though he'd been diagnosed with tuberculosis. The young personal injury lawyer was getting married, and about to start his own practice in Atlanta.

Then he became the subject of international disapprobation for allegedly endangering others by taking international airline flights while infected with an unusually dangerous—and contagious—form of TB. It turns out that Speaker, 32, was misdiagnosed, and there's no evidence he infected—or even posed a significant risk—to anyone while flying to and from his honeymoon. Nonetheless, it won't be easy for Speaker to escape his newfound reputation as the Typhoid Mary of TB, according to a New York Lawyer (reg. req.) article that reprints a story from the Fulton County Daily Report.

Not only Speaker's marketability as a lawyer but his father's law practice in their shared office has suffered from the perception that he selfishly put others at risk, the article says. Meanwhile, Speaker is acting as his own lawyer in Canada, where he's being sued by fellow passengers who fear he exposed them to TB on a Prague to Montreal flight, because he can't afford to retain counsel.

Speaker—who maintains he did nothing wrong and criticizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for allegedly mishandling his case—unfortunately sees no hope of recovering damages himself from the debacle. “They’re a federal agency. They have immunity,” he says of the CDC.

And, despite his efforts to tell his story, many still don't believe him, he fears. “It’s easier to think this guy is a jerk than that a government agency got together to intentionally misinform the public. That’s much harder to believe.”

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