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Jury rules against drug companies in product liability case

Imagine you go to the hospital for a relatively simple outpatient procedure that is conducted to prevent future disease. You receive an anesthetic for the procedure but the vial containing the anesthetic is misused and wrongly packaged by the manufacturer. Because of the mistakes you walk away from the simple procedure with a blood-borne illness. Instead of the prevention of an illness you contract one. The story is similar to one man’s in a product liability case involving a colonoscopy, a sedative and two drug companies.

Four years ago, a retired Air Force technical sergeant and Vietnam veteran contracted hepatitis C during a colonoscopy. Since that time the 71-year-old man has suffered medical uncertainty, strain on his three decade long marriage and over four weeks of trial.

The man filed a product liability suit in February 2008 and his lawyer alleged that drug companies who produced and delivered the anesthetic used in the man’s colonoscopy procedure placed patient safety last. The man’s lawyer argued that the large vials the anesthetic was stored within encouraged doctors and nurse anesthetists to reuse the same vials of sedative during successive anesthesia procedures. The reuse of vials on multiple patients increases the risk of spreading blood-borne illnesses.

The drug companies maintained the drug was manufactured and delivered properly and argued the clinic staff spread the risk of blood-borne disease through unsafe practices.

A jury disagreed with the drug companies and found in favor of the 71-year-old man. The drug companies involved in the suit will have to pay $104 million in punitive damages. The retired Air Force sergeant was previously awarded $14 million in compensatory damages during a different hearing.

The doctor who owns the clinics involved in the suit are located in Nevada and faces state and federal criminal charges.

Source: abcnews.go.com, “Jury awards couple $104 million in Vegas hepatitis case,” Ken Ritter, Oct. 13, 2011

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