Judge rejects Desai's request

Hang 'em from the Spaghetti Bowl.

Flog 'em on Fremont Street.

Grab the pitchforks and torches and let's get those monsters.

Comments such as those on news Web sites exemplify opinion toward Dr. Dipak Desai and others from the clinics blamed for last year's hepatitis C outbreak, their lawyer said Tuesday in asking to move the civil trials to Carson City.

"Unbelievably derogatory statements, comparing them to Nazis, comparing them to Saddam Hussein, calling them monsters," said attorney David MacDonald, who represents the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, the Gastroenterology Center of Nevada, the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center and nurses.

Clinic lawyers wanted to move the first 22 civil trials related to the outbreak. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed since the February 2008 announcement that 50,000 patients might have been exposed to hepatitis and HIV because of unsafe injection practices.

That number grew to 60,000, and health officials have linked nine hepatitis C cases to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow office. Another 105 cases are possibly related.

"Sensational publicity" in Las Vegas has made it impossible for his clients to get a fair trial; the jury pool has been "polluted," MacDonald said.

He cited a survey by David Graeven of San Francisco-based Trial Behavior Consulting Inc. that polled 400 Clark County residents and 404 Carson City residents. The poll found about 82 percent of Southern Nevadans polled believed clinic staffers were negligent. In Carson City, that number was 53 percent.

"The defendants have been vilified," said MacDonald, who noted that clinic doctors have been unable to find work since the news broke.

In her arguments against moving the trial, lawyer Patti Wise said many of the sickly, elderly people suing the clinics could not spend a month in Carson City during the trial away from their doctors and medical treatments. "To be saying it would be inconvenient for the plaintiffs is an understatement," Wise said.

Moving the complex trials north would overwhelm the Carson City court system, which has two judges, she said.

As for the poll, Wise said that even after excluding the large number of Clark County residents who might be biased against the doctors, the leftover jury pool would still dwarf the one in Carson City, which has fewer than 60,000 residents compared with Clark County's nearly 2 million.

At the end of the hearing, District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez denied the motion to move the trials, saying it was an issue that should be addressed on a case-by-case basis as each trial judge begins seating a jury.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.