Exeter Hospital and several medical staffing agencies are facing 26 lawsuits after prosecutors said 32 patients contracted hepatitis C through a hospital worker who stole powerful narcotics to get high.
Dozens of lawyers involved in the lawsuits gathered at Rockingham County Superior Court Friday morning to coordinate their cases.
They want hospital President Kevin Callahan and other hospital staff to provide testimony, something that could happen in April.
"We need to find out what happened, partly so it won't happen again," said Manchester-based attorney Mark Abramson, who is representing 13 patients.
The lawsuits may not be decided until mid-2014, unless the hospital and staffing agencies agree to settlement—an option that's still on the table.
Prosecutors said the hepatitis C outbreak was caused by 33-year-old David Kwiatkowski, who's currently sitting in jail on fraud and tampering charges. He faces up to 98 years in jail and $3.5 million in fines. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors said Kwiatkowski, who has hepatitis C, shot himself up with narcotics meant for patients in Exeter Hospital's cardiac catheterization laboratory. He would then refill the needles with a saline solution to make it appear they were untouched—but the tainted needles were then used on unsuspecting patients, according to prosecutors.
Exeter Hospital officials haven't commented on the lawsuits. They released the following statement Friday:
The hospital’s focus has been and continues to be the care of our patients through the difficulty caused by the alleged criminal acts of ex-hospital employee David Kwiatkowski. We will maintain this focus even as the legal process progresses.
Kwiatkowski was a "traveler" who was placed at hospitals all across the country by staffing agenices. He also spread his hepatitis C to about a dozen other patients at those hospitals before he came to Exeter, health officials said.