Allegheny County judge tosses 3 hepatitis C lawsuits against UPMC, lets 2 go forward
By Debra Erdley
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:39 p.m.
An Allegheny County judge tossed out three lawsuits against UPMC arising from a traveling medical technician who allegedly exposed patients to hepatitis C, but he allowed two class-action lawsuits to go forward.
About 2,000 UPMC patients received letters last fall advising them to get hepatitis C tests because of possible exposure from contact with David Kwiatkowski, a radiology technician who worked at Presbyterian in 2008 and was later discovered to have hepatitis C.
New Hampshire authorities charged him last summer with infecting dozens of hospital patients in New England by stealing syringes of powerful narcotics and replacing them with syringes he had used.
The class-action lawsuits charge UPMC with negligence in the hiring and supervision of Kwiatkowski.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick ruled June 20 that they can move forward, but he limited damages that could be recovered, an attorney for the hospital said.
Still, Brendan Lupetin, a lawyer representing one class action, called Wettick's ruling a victory.
“We feel very strongly, now that we've survived preliminary objections, these are very, very valid claims for all of the people that received these letters,” Lupetin said.
New Castle attorney Dallas Hartman, who represents the other group, could not be reached for comment.
UPMC fired Kwiatkowski in May 2008 on suspicion of stealing narcotics 47 days after he went to work there as a contract employee. UPMC did not report him to police, and he went to work elsewhere.
Rick Kidwell, senior associate counsel for UPMC, said Wettick's rulings limited damages in the class-action lawsuit to costs for injuries that patients may have suffered during blood testing for hepatitis C. Wettick ruled that the patients cannot seek punitive damages, he said.
“People get their blood taken all the time. Is that an injury, and if it is, it surely isn't worth much?” Kidwell said. He said only one patient has tested positive for hepatitis C, “and we're not sure they got it here.”
Kidwell said Wettick dismissed three complaints from Kansas, claiming that UPMC's failure to report Kwiatkowski contributed to Kwiatkowski spreading the disease there.
Wettick ruled those cases had no relation to UPMC, Kidwell said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Food stamp fraud, bloat overshadow debate on farm bill
- Illness briefly sidelines mayor, but he’s back in the game by late week
- Companies are rethinking their holiday parties with different kinds of venues
- Late Thanksgiving diminishes jingle of Salvation Army kettles
- Newsmaker: Mary C. Burke
- North Park Lake Trail to be widened along Ingomar Road
- Farmers markets’ terminals ease sales
- Police say fellow cop arrested for drunk driving after coming to work intoxicated
- 50 ‘most valuable people’ honored at Stargell banquet
- Civil justice system discourages transparency, experts say
- Newsmaker: Mark Kamlet