N.H. Hepatitis C Trial Is Delayed
Concord — A federal judge on Friday postponed a trial to determine whether a medical staffing agency and an accreditation organization should help pay for settlements reached by Exeter Hospital over a traveling medical technician who infected patients with hepatitis C.
The technician, David Kwiatkowski, is serving 39 years in prison for stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. Despite being fired numerous times over drug allegations, he had worked as a cardiac technologist in seven states before being hired in New Hampshire in 2011. Since his arrest in 2012, 46 people in four states have been diagnosed with the same strain of the hepatitis C virus he carries.
Exeter Hospital, which has settled dozens of lawsuits with infected patients, is suing the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and a staffing company that once employed Kwiatkowski, Triage Staffing. That case was set to go to trial next January, but a judge on Friday granted the hospital’s request to postpone it until October 2017 because of the large number of depositions required.
The hospital also is seeking permission to update its complaint with additional information about the cases it has settled with patients. Since its last updated claim, the hospital has settled one additional lawsuit brought by an infected patient — bringing that total to 36 — and 188 others who were not infected but claimed some harm from the outbreak.
According to court documents, the 188 patients were among the more than 3,000 patients who were tested for hepatitis C after the outbreak. All tested negative for hepatitis C, a bloodborne virus that can cause liver disease and chronic health problems, but alleged that they suffered physical or emotional injury after learning of their potential infection, having to undergo the tests and having to wait for days or weeks for the results.
Besides New Hampshire, the other infected patients were in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kansas, where prosecutors said one of them later died. Kwiatkowski also worked in Michigan, Arizona and Georgia.
Attorneys for Exeter Hospital, the accreditation agency and staffing agency did not respond to requests for comment Friday.