A jury found three drug companies liable Thursday for the infections of three former patients at the clinics linked to Southern Nevada's hepatitis C outbreak.
The jury awarded $20.1 million in compensatory damages to the patients and their spouses, and said the three companies that made and sold the sedative propofol should pay punitive damages.
Lawyers for the patients have said they will ask for $600 million in punitive damages against Teva Parenteral Medicines Inc., Baxter Healthcare Corp. and McKesson Corp., which made and sold the milky drug.
The jury's verdict came after two weeks of jury selection, seven weeks of testimony and about seven hours of deliberations.
Eight jurors found the companies liable on most of the plaintiffs' claims, including failing to monitor their products, failing to issue "Dear Doctor" letters warning about the dangers of reusing the vials and for providing the large vials to endoscopy centers.
However, the jury did not find that the propofol or vials were defective.
The awards for compensatory damages, which can include lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering and emotional distress, were: Anne Arnold, $8.5 million; her husband, James Arnold, $900,000; Tony Devito, $5 million; his wife, Donna Devito, $700,000; and Richard Sacks, $5 million.
The damages were less than the $25 million Robert Eglet and Will Kemp had asked for during Wednesday's closing arguments.
Neither the lawyers nor plaintiffs would comment after the verdict because the case continues today with a hearing on punitive damages.
Teva said it would appeal.
"Mistreatment of patients is unacceptable, especially in a case like this where medical professionals blatantly ignored the product's handling instructions and also used unsanitary practices," the company said in a statement. "Propofol is an FDA approved drug with clear and comprehensive labeling that very specifically states that it is for single patient use only and that aseptic procedure should be used at all times."
The product liability lawsuit said the drug companies should not have sold the large 50-milliliter vials of the drug to endoscopy centers, where typical procedures require less than 20 milliliters.
Because of the larger vials, nurses at the Dipak Desai-owned Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinic were tempted to reuse them among multiple patients to avoid throwing away leftovers, plaintiffs' lawyers argued.
Despite medical journals published since 1995 that linked the reuse of large propofol vials to at least seven hepatitis outbreaks across the world, the companies continued to sell the big vials to endoscopy centers, the plaintiffs argued.
The reuse of propofol vials was a central factor in Southern Nevada's 2008 outbreak, which prompted 60,000 patient notifications warning of potential infection, the largest in U.S. history, health officials found.
Nurse anesthetists at the endoscopy clinics contaminated the vials when they reused syringes on infected patients, and the blood-borne diseases then spread when the contaminated vials were used for uninfected patients, according to the Southern Nevada Health District's investigation.
Health officials linked nine hepatitis C cases to the clinic and a sister clinic. They labeled another 106 cases "possibly linked," including those of Arnold, Sacks and Devito.
Thursday's verdict was the second victory in as many trials for patients suing the companies. Last year, a Henderson couple won $5.1 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages against Teva and Baxter.
And more outbreak-related verdicts are coming soon. The trial for infected patient Michael Washington is scheduled for closing arguments today , and a fourth trial starts Monday.
Contact Brian Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0281.