Jury awards $24 million to victims of hepatitis C transmission
Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Apr 08, 2013 in Doctor Errors
As many as 50,000 patients have been warned that they are in danger of having contracted hepatitis C from the sloppy and negligent practices of one doctor. Hepatitis C, which is a blood disease that can be fatal, has been in the news a lot since a 2007 outbreak took place. Folks across Connecticut may have heard about the very upsetting event that was caused by negligence and doctor error.
According to reports, the outbreak of hepatitis C happened because doctors were reusing vials of anesthetic on patients undergoing colonoscopy procedures. The process of reusing the vials without properly sterilizing them put thousands of people in danger of being infected. Two women who now have hepatitis as a result of one doctor's substandard care in 2007 filed the first lawsuit against a national insurance company.
The women's lawsuits argued that two units of UnitedHealth were negligent in overseeing the doctor who performed the colonoscopies. Not only did the doctor have a history of complaints from patients regarding sloppy and careless treatment, but he also reportedly sped through certain procedures so that he could get through dozens in just a couple hours. This negligent care and failure to properly sterilize his surgical equipment put thousands of people in danger.
The insurance companies should have been monitoring the doctor because they hired him and should have ensure that he and his practice were providing standard levels of care to their members. Based on the recent ruling of a jury, the insurance company units must pay a combined total of $24 million in compensatory damages to the women for not properly monitoring the performance of the doctor. The women are also pursuing an estimated $1 billion in punitive damages.
The doctor in this case is also facing criminal charges including federal fraud and second-degree murder after another one of his patients died while undergoing a colonoscopy.
Source: Bloomberg, "UnitedHealth Units to Pay $24 Million in Hepatitis Case," Valerie Miller and Jef Feeley, April 4, 2013