$500M punitive judgement awarded in hepatitis C suit - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

$500M punitive judgement awarded in hepatitis C suit

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Attorney Robert Eglet hugs the plaintiffs following the verdict on April 4, 2013. Attorney Robert Eglet hugs the plaintiffs following the verdict on April 4, 2013.

A jury has awarded the plaintiffs in a hepatitis C civil lawsuit $500 million in punitive damages.

Health Plan of Nevada was ordered to pay $270 million; Sierra Health Services was ordered to pay $230 million.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Robert Eglet, had asked the jury to award $2.5 billion.

The jury last week found Health Plan of Nevada liable and awarded $24 million in compensatory damages. The combined damages awarded makes this the largest personal injury verdict in Nevada history.

"Years ago, all I wanted to do was just tell my story, and I got to do that, and they listened," said plaintiff Bonnie Brunson. "The last five years have been very hard reliving everything again. Now I'm just hoping that our life will continue in some sort of normalcy."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say this judgement will resonate across the country. 

"The message they're sending, not only to HPN and Sierra but all HMO's and all health insurance companies across this country, (is) that they cannot continue to grind the doctor's reimbursement rates down so low that the medical professionals in our country are not able to provide competent, safe medical care," said Eglet.

Health Plan of Nevada said the decision was not grounded in reality, and it will immediately begin the process of appealing. 

"This jury was precluded from hearing about Dr. Desai's criminal trial," said spokesperson Tyler Mason. "They were precluded from hearing these plaintiffs have already received tens of millions of dollars in a pharmaceutical trial, and they were precluded from hearing our own internal processes that we follow religiously as it relates to credentialing of physicians."

The appeals process is expected to take two to three years.

Dr. Dipak Desai is facing state and federal criminal charges in connection with the hepatitis outbreak.

The first of those trials is expected to begin later this month.

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