- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Nearly two dozen victims of one of the largest hepatitis C outbreaks in recent U.S. history have settled their claims against a Minot hospital out of court.

Neither plaintiffs’ attorney Behdad Sadeghi nor Trinity Health are releasing terms of the deal, which resolves a protracted legal dispute over an outbreak of the viral infection that began in August 2013 in Minot and eventually sickened at least 52 people.

The plaintiffs and the health care company filed a joint motion to dismiss the case late last month, according to Sadeghi. Plaintiffs “chose to resolve this dispute after comparing the settlement proposal to the damages award expected at trial,” he said Friday.

Trinity attorney Randall Hanson said the hospital chose to resolve the dispute “recognizing the harm to the individuals and the litigation costs faced by the families and Trinity Health.”

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can cause serious liver damage or death. At the time, the Minot outbreak was the nation’s largest in 13 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Twenty-one victims or relatives of people who died eventually ended up as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Trinity Hospital and the former ManorCare nursing home, where most of the victims lived or had stayed. They sought compensation for expensive drugs used to treat the disease and unspecified damages for economic harm, personal injury and the wrongful death of at least three people.

In March, the 21 victims dropped their claims against the nursing home, and the victims and nursing home joined in a lawsuit against Trinity Health, alleging an employee of the outpatient laboratory service caused the outbreak by reusing needles and not following infection control practices.

State and federal health officials suspect the outbreak might have been associated with blood services provided to ManorCare residents, but they never pinpointed an exact cause. Trinity has rejected the notion that it’s responsible.

A legal battle between Trinity and ManorCare isn’t resolved, as ManorCare alleges that Trinity fraudulently blamed the nursing home for the outbreak, hurting its business and leading to the sale of the nursing home to a Wisconsin-based partnership at a price far below its true value. Trinity disputes that.


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