Jury awards $524 million to patients in Las Vegas hepatitis lawsuits

by Eric Pearson

A jury awarded $524 million to two patients who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated anesthetic propofol vials used during colonoscopies at a Nevada clinic in 2007. Helen Meyer and Bonnie Brunson contracted hepatitis C when they underwent colonoscopies at a Las Vegas endoscopy facilities operated by Dr. Dipak Desai. According to the plaintiffs, Dr. Desai and his staff improperly reused propofol vials and syringes and failed to sterilize equipment between patients.

In addition to the sheer size of the verdict, the case is unusual because the jury actually found liability against the HMOs who had hired Dr. Desai for their network. Specifically, the jury found that two UnitedHealth Group, Inc., subsidiaries were liable for failing to properly monitor Dr. Desai and the clinic he owned and operated.

At trial, the plaintiffs argued that UnitedHealth officials knew Desai had a reputation for sloppy practices and failed to check the quality of his work. Witnesses testified that that the doctor would see as many as 20 patients in a three-hour period. The plaintiffs argued that despite these practices, prior complaints of failure to diagnose cancer and Crohn’s disease and numerous hygiene problems at the clinic, the insurance carriers awarded Desai a contract to handle colonoscopies and later renewed the contract. One of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs stated, “None of the defendants took any steps to prevent the unsafe practices that resulted in the spread of hepatitis C throughout the Las Vegas community. Instead, they placed profit over patient safety.”

After hearing all of the evidence, the jury found that Health Plan of Nevada and Sierra Health Services were negligent in failing to properly monitor Desai’s performance. They awarded $24 million in actual damages and $500 million in punitive damages. The defendants plan to appeal.

If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of a doctor or HMO, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have extensive experience handling medical malpractice claims, negligence claims and suits against insurance companies and HMOs. All three of our name partners—Jim Orr, Eric Pearson, and Michael Heygood—are board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and all of them have achieved multiple, million-dollar-plus verdicts and settlements. In fact, during the last three years alone, Heygood, Orr & Pearson has collected more than $200 million for our clients.

You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free case evaluation form located on this website.