Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Verdict of $500 million for doctor malpractice

A jury ruled that UnitedHealth Group Inc., that does business in Pennsylvania and a number of other states, should pay $524 million regarding the failure to oversee one of its doctors. It was alleged that the practices of this doctor led to two patients contracting hepatitis C after performing colonoscopies.

While $24 million of the award is meant for compensatory damages, the remainder of the award comes in the form of punitive damages. As this verdict occurred in one particular state, a United Health Group spokesperson expressed concern that these types of verdicts may be passed down in other locations as well.

UnitedHealth Group referred to the verdict as representing "fantasy damages, not punitive damages." Another health provider claimed this case was "driven only by attorney greed." Be that as it may, it does not appear that UnitedHealth Group is in a position to cast stones.

The award was certainly extremely large. But if the allegations in the lawsuit are correct, the doctor's actions merited a large verdict under almost any circumstances.

It was asserted in the lawsuit that the doctor reused anesthetic vials, and that he failed to sterilize his equipment. It is believed that as many as 50,000 patients may have contracted hepatitis C due to this doctor's poor medical practices. Hepatitis C is a potentially fatal disease. Punitive damages certainly do seem appropriate in a manner like this, and it was the actions of the doctor rather than any attorney that motivated the jury to make this award.

Source: Bloomberg, "UnitedHealth to Pay $500 Million Over Hepatitis Doctor," by Valerie Miller & Jef Feeley, April 10, 2013

  • To learn more about physician negligence and a patient's legal options, please visit our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania lawyers' website.

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