Trials in hepatitis C lawsuits not expected until November 2014
Exeter Hospital patients who believe they were infected with hepatitis C by a former cardiac lab worker likely will wait another year and a half before their lawsuits against the hospital go to trial, lawyers said yesterday.
The hospital faces 25 lawsuits seeking to hold it accountable for the actions of David Kwiatkowski, who is accused of stealing painkiller syringes from the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his own blood. In jail since his arrest in July, he has pleaded not guilty to 14 federal drug charges and is expected to go to trial next fall.
After a scheduling conference in Rockingham County Superior Court yesterday, lawyers for both the hospital and the infected patients said the first civil case likely will go to trial in November 2014, though many may be settled before then.
“We have been working with the patients’ attorneys to try to move the cases along and resolve them as early as possible,” said hospital attorney William Dailey, one of about 40 attorneys who attended the scheduling conference. “They’re complex cases so it takes some time, but we are working cooperatively and we expect that will continue.”
Attorney Paul Monzione, who is representing a Newmarket man, said the plaintiffs’ lawyers all are working to resolve the cases in a reasonable manner, but all are prepared to go to trial if necessary. He described his client, Douglas Barringer, as “emotionally distraught” but doing the best he can under the circumstances.
“He went into the hospital to get well, not to get sick, and ended up coming out far sicker than he was when he went in,” he said. “He now has a very serious disease that he’s contending with.”
Thirty-two people in New Hampshire and a dozen people in other states have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski, who worked at 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired by Exeter Hospital in April 2011. For years, he moved from job to job, despite having been fired twice over allegations of drug use and theft.
“Some very wonderful hospitals, major hospitals around the country . . . had this technician with them before he ever came here, and are now experiencing their own problems,” Dailey said. “It’s awfully hard when you have a rogue like this to keep up with him.”