- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Attorneys are asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit that blames a Minot hospital for the largest hepatitis C outbreak in recent U.S. history.

Trinity Hospital attorney Randall Hanson said the lawsuit doesn’t follow proper legal procedure and makes allegations that are “impertinent and simply untrue.”

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause serious liver damage or death. The state health department says 52 people were sickened in the outbreak that began in August 2013, including 48 tied to residents or former residents of the ManorCare nursing home. The department has not reported any deaths in the outbreak.

The nursing home and 21 victims jointly filed a lawsuit in March claiming that an employee of Trinity’s outpatient laboratory service reused needles and didn’t follow infection control practices.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for expensive drugs used to treat the disease and unspecified damages for economic harm, personal injury and wrongful death. It says at least three people died in the outbreak.

In his response, Hanson wrote that the lawsuit aims “to draw media attention and to bias the jury pool against Trinity.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Todd Miller called Trinity’s argument flawed and also “procedure over substance.”

The Minot outbreak was the largest in the nation in 13 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State and federal health officials have not pinpointed an exact cause of the outbreak, and Health Department Medical Services Chief Kirby Kruger said last month that the investigation is closed.

ManorCare also alleges that Trinity fraudulently blamed the nursing home for the outbreak, hurting its business and leading to the facility’s sale far below its true value.

ManorCare’s allegation “would more appropriately be asserted in support of a claim for defamation,” Hanson said. “A claim for defamation, however, has a two-year statute of limitations and ManorCare of Minot’s allegations relate to actions that allegedly occurred more than two years prior.”

Miller said “Trinity’s motion is nothing more than their latest effort to delay the victims’ day in court.”

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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