LAS VEGAS (CN) – Attorneys in the first civil trial stemming from the hepatitis C outbreak brought on by reused single-use vials of anesthesia at endoscopy clinics asked jurors on Friday for $8.5 million in damages. During closing arguments, Robert Eglet, attorney for plaintiff Henry Chanin, called the reused vials “weapons of mass infection.”
Chanin sued after he was infected with hepatitis C during a routine procedure in 2006. Portions of his lawsuit already were settled.
In pushing for the award, Will Kemp, Chanin’s other attorney, told the jury to consider Chanin’s wife, Lorraine, who was told her husband has a life exptency of 19.5 years.
“There’s no intimacy. She’s 58. Basically she’s a nun for the next 19.5 years. So you lose the man of your dreams, you’re living with an infected partner, what are the damages for this?”
Eglet asked jurors to find Teva Parenteral Medicines Inc. and Baxter Healthcare Corp. liable on product defect claims for not encouraging the use of smaller, 10 mL vials at clinics, and for failing to properly warn against misuse.
Eglet argued that the large size of the 50 mL, single-use vials of propofol encourage reuse, which led to contamination and infection.
He also accused the pharmaceutical companies of knowing about 148 cases of hepatitis contamination brought on by reused vials, and that the companies reduced production of 10 mL vials while amping up sales of their “more dangerous” 50 mL vials, knowing the larger vials were likely to be reused.
Mark Tully, attorney for defendants, debunked what plaintiffs referred to repeatedly as the “Big Secret,” arguing that those cited 148 cases were caused by reused syringes, not reused vials of profofol.
In his challenge to plaintiff’s “failure to warn” claim, Tully noted that the vials already contain warning labels against reusing, as do package inserts.
Tully also said plaintiff’s attorneys failed to provide any evidence that any medical professional would have any difficult with the product’s warnings.
“You don’t have to read the Bible,” Tully said of the red warnings in propofol’s packaging. “The second paragraph of the insert, we start with ‘strict aseptic technique’ and that it is a ‘single-use product.'”
In closing, Tully said, “How does the manufacturer and distributor of a perfectly good product which worked as it was supposed to … which contained warnings … how can that manufacturer and distributor be blamed for Mr. Chanin’s illness?”
Chanin, a headmaster at a private school, testified earlier this week that there is a 5 percent chance that his hepatitis C could lead to liver disease.
Thousands of lawsuits were filed after the Southern Nevada Health District notified about 50,000 people in 2008 that they needed to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.