Huge Malpractice Verdict against Nevada Doctor who Exposed Patients to Hepatitis C

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report of a $500 million verdict against a Las Vegas gastroenterologist and UnitedHealth Group. The plaintiffs alleged that UnitedHealth was negligent in signing a contract with the doctor, who allegedly exposed many patients to hepatitis C.

The lawsuit was brought by two plaintiffs who contracted hepatitis C after being treated by the doctor, Dipak Desai, in 2005. The 62-year-old former gastroenterologist allegedly mishandled anesthetics and had substandard sterilization practices, which led to the infections. Part of the blame is placed on UnitedHealth Group, which plaintiffs argued continued to renew contracts with Dr. Desai despite knowing about his inadequate medical practices.

The total $524 million award is so far the largest U.S. verdict of 2013. In 2005, the two plaintiffs went to Dr. Desai for colonoscopies. The doctor allegedly consistently reused anesthetic vials and failed to sterilize equipment, resulting in the hepatitis C exposure. Two years later, Nevada officials were forced to contact more than 50,000 patients who may have also been exposed. $24 million was awarded to the initial plaintiffs in compensatory damages.

UnitedHealth argued that insurance rates could skyrocket if insurers were held liable for the conduct of in-network doctors. The company denied the allegations against it and argued that the hepatitis C exposure was the fault of Desai, who cared more about profits than patient safety and health. It also argued that making insurers liable for the criminal actions of independent doctors would force those companies to initiate intrusive and expensive oversight into healthcare delivery.

Densai and two of his anesthetic nurses are also currently facing homicide chargers from the death of a colonoscopy patient. That trial is scheduled for later this month. The doctor is also facing federal fraud allegations.

In 1992, Health Plan of Nevada, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, dropped Desai from the network over quality care concerns. He was reinstated in 1997, which why plaintiffs were so adamant on naming the group in their lawsuit. They stated they are suing the group for violating public safety requirements and failing to make member health and safety its primary concern. Jurors agreed, finding that UnitedHealth was negligent in failing to monitor Desai’s performance.

UnitedHealth affirmed that what was done to these patients was unconscionable, the result of a doctor intentionally disregarding fundamental common-sense medical principles to save a few bucks. Desai used the anesthetic Propofol, manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals in over-sized vials. The large size enabled, even invited Desai to reuse the vials, contributing to the hepatitis C infections. Nevada juries previously awarded colonoscopy patients over $750 million in damages over the over-sized Propofol. Another $250 million was used to settle more than 80 lawsuits.

A representative from UnitedHealth stated that the $500 million represented fantasy damages, not realistic punitive damages, and that the company intended to appeal the verdict. It argued the company was adequately punished with the $24 million jurors awarded the two sickened plaintiffs. It said it should not be held responsible for providing full-time monitoring of doctors in the HMO network, and that Desai had been credentialed at numerous state hospitals.

Plaintiffs stated that Desai had a cavalier attitude toward his practice, speeding through exams so he would see as many as 20 patients in a three-hour period. Additional inadequate sterilization practices in Desai’s center included failing to change the fluid used to disinfect medical tools, reusing biting blocks, and cutting corners on disposable medical napkins.

The practices employed at Desai’s former gastrointestinal center are horrifying and dangerous, and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. If you were a patient of Dr. Desai’s, or any other negligent doctor, and suffered a disease or serious injury from those inadequacies, you have important legal rights. Like these two plaintiffs, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your suffering. Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can ensure you will receive the best representation and largest settlement possible.

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