Insurance Company Found Negligent in Hep C Trial

LAS VEGAS -- Jurors found Health Plan of Nevada negligent on all counts Thursday afternoon in the Hepatitis C civil suit. They also awarded millions of dollars in damages to three plaintiffs. 

Two of the three plaintiffs were patients who were infected with Hepatitis C from the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, run by Dr. Dipak Desai. The negligence lawsuit was filed against Health Plan of Nevada, a health maintenance organization (HMO), alleging the insurance company was as much to blame as the other key players in the outbreak, including Dr. Desai.

The lawsuit was brought forward by Desai's former patient Bonnie Brunson, who contracted Hepatitis C, and her husband, Carl Brunson. Another woman, Helen Meyer, is also named as a plaintiff.  

Jurors awarded compensatory damages to all three. Bonnie Brunson was awarded $12 million, Carl Brunson was awarded $3 million and Helen Meyer was awarded $9 million.

In a statement released by Health Plan of Nevada, the company said, "We are disappointed, but not surprised, by this verdict given the volumes of essential evidence the jury was blocked from hearing during this trial. We look forward to presenting our case on appeal."

A plaintiffs' lawyer said Thursday he'll ask the jury on Friday to hold Health Plan of Nevada and Sierra Health Services responsible for another $1 billion in punitive damages for what he calls "reckless disregard" for patients' health.

Southern Nevada Hepatitis C Investigation

In May 2010, a Nevada jury ordered Teva Perenteral Medicines and Baxter Health Care Corp. to pay Henry and Lorraine Channin $505 million in punitive and compensatory damages stemming from the Hepatitis C outbreak. Henry Channin contracted the disease in June 2006 after a routine colonoscopy.


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