Jury Disservice

Are two companies that packaged propofol in 50-milliliter vials and sold it truly culpable for the hepatitis C infection of a Las Vegas colonoscopy patient? Yes, a jury decided Wednesday in awarding $5.1 million in the first civil trial from the city's HCV outbreak.

Even worse, in my perspective, the jury then awarded $500 million in punitive damages after four hours of deliberation.

How propofol, a sedative, was administered to plaintiff Henry Chanin, 62, was not discussed during the three-week trial, nor could defendants Teva Parenteral Medicine and Baxter Healthcare Services, which made and sold the propofol, try to blame the staff of the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center where Henry Chanin was infected during a colonoscopy procedure in 2006. That's because the doctor and nurses who had performed the procedure settled the malpractice claims against them before the trial began.

The plaintiffs' case came down to whether 50-milliliter vials endangered public safety because that amount is four to fives times more than needed for typical procedures at the clinic and thus encouraged nurse anesthetists to reuse the vials among patients. Reusing vials in this way after the staffers had reused syringes on the same patient caused the outbreak, which was linked to the Desert Shadow and one other clinic and has been covered extensively by Las Vegas' two newspapers.

The jury now is considering punitive damages.

Posted by Jerry Laws on May 06, 2010