Jury in hepatitis C civil trial considers punitive damages - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Jury in hepatitis C civil trial considers punitive damages

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

An attorney for two of the victims who contracted hepatitis C is seeking up to $1 billion in punitive damages. On Thursday, the HMO was found negligent in a widespread hepatitis outbreak.

On Friday, the plaintiff's attorney Will Kemp used an example of actress Lindsay Lohan to show why Health Plan of Nevada and Sierra Health Services should not just be slapped on the wrist for failing to protect its insured members.

"What happens when you don't punish people after they have their wrist slap? They go right back to engaging in the same bad behavior," Kemp said. "This is what Lindsay does after she gets her wrist slap."

The plantiffs claim the HMO showed reckless disregard when it kept Dr. Dipak Desai in its network despite rogue practices at his medical clinics.

Kemp told jurors the two defendants made a combined gross income of $29 billion over 10 years.

"You're going to have to decide what is the appropriate number to punish someone so this doesn't happen again," said Kemp.

Plaintiff's attorney Robert Eglet has said he is seeking up to $1 billion in punitive damages.

"I feel any of us would feel a number that large is again without merit because we acted quickly once we are notified," said Health Plan of Nevada spokesman Tyler Mason.

Mason believes the HMO shouldn't have to pay a punitive award. He argues the company didn't get a fair trial since the jurors weren't told key facts.

"What does this mean for healthcare in Nevada?" Mason asked. "What does this mean for health plans when
we know it was one physician who acted terribly?"

The jury will return Monday to more closing arguments in this punitive stage. The defendants have said they plan to appeal Thursday's decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

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