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UnitedHealth to Pay $500 Million in Hepatitis C Case
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An outbreak of Hepatitis C in Nevada led to a $500 million verdict for two patients who received improper endoscopies. According to Reuters, the case, which centered around a gastroenterologist affiliated with the UnitedHealth Group, has gained national attention over the last few months, both for the seriousness of the infections and the large punitive sum requested by the plaintiffs.

Helen Myer and Bonnie Brunson both were infected with hepatitis C, a virus that affects the human liver, during what they thought would be routine endoscopies at Dipak Desai’s Clark County office. The gastroenterologist was a member of their company’s network, and they claimed UnitedHealth Group should have more closely monitored this doctor. The accused doctor did not use properly sterilized needles for the injection during the procedure and reused anesthetic vials, infecting both patients with hepatitis C. Each patient filed separate lawsuits in Clark County District Court, which were heard by the same jury.

  
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Today, the jury awarded the two plaintiffs a total of $500 million in punitive damages against Health Plan of Nevada and Sierra Health Group, both of which are affiliated with UnitedHealth. More than just the two patients were infected with hepatitis C, and further lawsuits against the doctor and the health care provider are expected soon. The jury’s award is the largest of 2013 so far.

Attorneys representing Myer and Brunson had asked the jurors to award them a total of $2.5 billion against UnitedHealth Group.

Health Plan of Nevada officials created a website to provide information about the trial, on which they said the cases were “driven only by attorney greed.”

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Upon hearing the verdict, the company released a statement in which they said, “The number announced today has no grounding in reality — it represents fantasy damages, not punitive damages.”

Brunson’s attorney, Robert Eglet, has said that he hoped the verdict would send a message to insurers that they must properly monitor the doctors they hire to be part of their insurance networks.





 

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