Residents at a nursing home in North Dakota have settled with a hospital system following the largest outbreak of hepatitis C in recent U.S. history. However, the ongoing legal battle between the hospital and the nursing home where most of those involved were sickened will press on.
Courthouse News Service reports that the confidential settlement, which is still pending approval from the judge, stems from the outbreak in August 2013 in which 52 people were sickened. Of those, 48 were residents or former residents of a nursing home. It was the biggest outbreak of hepatitis C in more than a dozen years, according to data with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As for what caused it, that’s still in dispute. The 21 victims who were plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege that a hospital employee of an outpatient laboratory service reused needles and failed to follow infection control practices. State and federal authorities never exactly pinpointed the source, but they did say they suspected the nursing home residents were infected in connection with blood services.
The hospital, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied that it was responsible for the outbreak and has instead pinned the blame on the nursing home. That is what sparked the nursing home to file a lawsuit against the hospital, with the nursing home asserting the hospital’s allegation’s were false and damaged the facility’s reputation, resulting in sharp decrease in the company’s value. When the business sold the nursing home to a partnership based in Wisconsin after the outbreak, it did so at a major loss because of the harm to its brand, the lawsuit alleges.
This confidential settlement will not resolve that case, nor several others filed individually by other patients that are still pending.
Hepatitis C is a type of viral infection that can result in serious liver damage and even death. The CDC reports that between 2008 and 2015, there were a total of 33 hepatitis C outbreaks in the U.S., resulting in a total of 239 persons infected and 99,900 at risk and needing regular screening. Of those 33 outbreaks, 13 occurred in outpatient facilities. Another 18 occurred in dialysis centers. There were also random cases in other health care settings, such as a dental office, a urology clinic, a long-term psychiatric care center and an outpatient surgery center.
At the several cases noted at assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the CDC-identified causes included:
- Use of a finger stick device for more than one resident;
- Use of a blood glucose meter for more than one resident without cleaning or disinfection;
- Failure to perform cleaning or disinfection between podiatry patients;
- Improper processing of contaminated podiatry equipment;
- Preparation of medications in the same area where blood specimens are processed;
- Syringe reuse;
- Nail care without proper cleaning or disinfection of tools and equipment.
Victims in this case sought compensation for the expensive drugs and treatment they will need to treat the condition, plus unspecified damages for economic harm, personal injury and, for at least three plaintiffs, wrongful death.
If you or a loved one have suffered illness or injury due to nursing home negligence in Florida, we can help.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Hospital Settles Lawsuit With Hepatitis C Victims, Aug. 30, 2016, By Blake Nicholson, Associated Press
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