Monday, December 9, 2013
The Associated Press
EXETER, N.H. - More than two dozen civil lawsuits filed against Exeter Hospital over its hepatitis C outbreak have been put on hold until early next year.
A Rockingham County Superior Court judge has granted the hospital's request to temporarily halt the discovery process, the Portsmouth Herald reported Thursday. That means hospital officials won't have to answer questions from the plaintiffs' attorneys until January, when an organizational meeting will be scheduled.
The lawsuits accuse the hospital of negligence in hiring and supervising David Kwiatkowski, a former lab worker charged with stealing drugs from the hospital and replacing them with tainted syringes that were later used on patients. Thirty-two patients in New Hampshire and several in other states where Kwiatkowski previously worked have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries.
The hospital's attorney, Peter Mosseau, has argued that the civil cases should be consolidated for discovery purposes so hospital officials won't have to give 25 different statements. Manchester attorney Mark Abramson, who represents clients in 13 of the 25 lawsuits, has argued that each plaintiff has a right to question hospital officials individually because they were infected at different times.
"The Exeter Hospital can run, but it can't hide forever," he said.
Hospital attorneys will be in Merrimack County Superior Court next week for a separate matter involving access to medical records. Exeter Hospital has asked the court to prevent the state from further accessing patient records and conducting staff interviews unless the state is more specific in its requests. The attorney general's office argues hospitals are required by law to provide information during a communicable disease investigation.