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Hepatitis case settlement in the works

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

CONCORD, N.H. — A Boston lawyer said Monday he is working on a settlement with the staffing agency that sent a traveling hospital technician to New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital, where he is accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C.

Dominic Paolini, an attorney whose clients include a New Hampshire man diagnosed with hepatitis C and several other Exeter patients, sued Nebraska-based Triage Staffing for negligence shortly after David Kwiatkowski's arrest in July. A federal magistrate last week recommended that the lawsuit be dismissed, but Paolini said re-filing it remains an option if settlement talks break down.

“Filing the suit in Nebraska allowed us to get their attention and get the ball rolling more quickly for our clients,” said Paolini, who plans to meet with the staffing agency's attorneys next month. “I still believe that all the matters concerning Exeter Hospital's responsibility, and others' responsibility, should be resolved out of court. Otherwise, patients may wait five to seven years to see any compensation.”

A spokesman for Triage Staffing had no immediate comment Monday.

The company was one of at least seven medical staffing agencies that employed Kwiatkowski, who worked at 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired in New Hampshire in April 2011. For years, he moved from job to job.

Kwiatkowski was fired twice during his career over allegations of drug use and theft, including from UPMC. He was a few weeks into his temporary stint when a co-worker accused him of stealing a fentanyl syringe from an operating room.

Kwiatkowski worked for several months as a radiology technician at UPMC Presbyterian in 2008. Ten patients filed a class-action lawsuit in Allegheny County in October against the health system and the Maryland-based staffing company it used, claiming that they enabled Kwiatkowski to inject himself with narcotics-filled syringes and leave the needles filled with saline to be used on other patients.

In New Hampshire, Kwiatkowski is accused of stealing painkillers from Exeter Hospital and replacing them with syringes tainted with his own blood. Thirty-two people in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski carries, along with six in Kansas, five in Maryland and one in Pennsylvania. Thousands more who may have been exposed have yet to be tested.

Kwiatkowski, who has been in jail since his arrest, pleaded not guilty to 14 federal drug charges in December and is expected to go to trial in the fall.

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