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March 29. 2013 12:18PM

Settlements expected in Exeter Hospital hep C cases before first trial in 2014

BRENTWOOD - Lawyers for Exeter Hospital have settled some cases with patients while other settlements are likely in the coming months as the first civil trial in the hepatitis C outbreak is expected in 2014.

Nearly 40 lawyers representing the hospital and the patients who are suing after claiming they were infected with hepatitis C by former hospital employee David Kwiatkowski met with a Rockingham County Superior Court judge Friday morning to work out a schedule for the 25 civil suits pending against the hospital.

William J. Dailey Jr., a hospital lawyer from Boston, said the hospital settled with some patients before they ever filed suit.

"We have been working with the patients’ attorneys to try to move the cases along to resolve them as early as possible. They’re complex cases so it takes some time, but we are working cooperatively and we expect that will continue," Dailey said.

Kwiatkowski worked at as many as 18 hospitals as a traveling medical technician before getting a job at Exeter Hospital, where he is accused of spreading his hepatitis C infection to 32 patients after allegedly stealing syringes filled with the painkiller fentanyl, using them on himself, and then replacing the dirty needles with a saline for reuse on patients.

The infections allegedly linked to Kwiatkowski were revealed last May. He was arrested on federal charges in July.
Many of the civil suits accuse the hospital of medical negligence and other failures that allegedly allowed Kwiatkowski to engage in drug diversion while working in Exeter.

However, other defendants are also named in some of the suits, including Triage Staffing Inc., a Nebraska firm that hired Kwiatkowski and placed him in Exeter Hospital; the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists; and American Healthcare Services Association, which had a contract with Triage Staffing allowing Kwiatkowski to be placed at the hospital, according to court documents.

Lawyers Paul Monzione of Wolfeboro and Alfred Catalfo III of Dover were among those representing infected patients who attended Friday’s structuring conference.

With some 80,000 pages of documents already being reviewed and witnesses who must still be questioned, Monzione said the first trial won’t happen until November 2014. But he said some cases may never go to trial.

"I think we’re all going to make efforts to resolve these cases in a reasonable way if we can and if not we’re fully prepared to go to trial," he said.

Monzione would not put a dollar amount on some of the settlements that could result from the litigation.

"The damages in cases like this vary widely from one person to another depending on age and illness and a number of circumstances," he said.

However, he said "some people who are very, very ill are going to have very substantial cases."

jschreiber@newstote.com

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