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Lawsuits filed in hepatitis C case

6/8/2014

By RANDY GONZALES

and MIKE CORN

The Hays Daily News

Four lawsuits stemming from a series of hepatitis C infections allegedly caused by a contract medical technician working at Hays Medical Center have been filed in Ellis County District Court.

All four lawsuits were filed May 23 on behalf of Thomas D. Walters, a rural Ellis County resident; Linda Ficken, Andover; Wanda J. Braun, Russell; and Ronnie D. Murphy and Connie E. McNeal, co-executors of the Eleanor Murphy estate.

Defendants are Hays Medical Center and Medical Solutions, an Omaha-based medical staffing firm. The lawsuits claim negligence on the part of both HaysMed and Medical Solutions.

Medical Solutions is the staffing agency that placed David Kwiatkowski at HaysMed for nearly four months beginning May 24, 2010.

Kwiatkowski, who worked at 18 hospitals in seven states, was sentenced in December to 39 years in prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

Since his arrest in July 2012, 47 people in four states -- six of them HaysMed patients -- have been diagnosed with a strain of hepatitis C identical to that affecting Kwiatkowski. He tested positive for hepatitis C in June 2010 in Kansas.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver damage and chronic health problems.

Kwiatkowski allegedly caused the infections by using syringes intended for patients and then refilling and replacing them for patient use.

Neither company has filed a response to the lawsuits.

"HaysMed's primary focus since day one has been working with potentially impacted patients," according to a statement from the hospital. "Our commitment to our patients, and to our community, continues to be addressing this situation directly. We appreciate the support the people of Western Kansas have shown for these efforts, and for the high level of quality care HaysMed provides."

All four lawsuits are nearly identical, with the names and circumstances changing in each case.

In his lawsuit, Walters is asking for more than $75,000 in damages from Hays Medical Center as well as the same amount from Medical Solutions.

Walters' wife, Clara, also is asking for more than $75,000 for "damages in the form of loss of household services, companionship, comfort, society and spousal consortium," according to the lawsuit.

His lawsuit lays out the course of events that ultimately resulted in Walters' infection with hepatitis C, confirmed by laboratory tests July 31, 2012, and Aug. 1, 2012.

Walters claims he was infected when he was given medication "through a syringe that had previously been diverted, used, infected, refilled and replaced by Kwiatkowski," the lawsuit claims.

Walters was a patient of the HaysMed cardiac catheterization laboratory between May and September of 2010.

The claim against HaysMed is twofold, with Walters claiming negligence because the hospital is liable for its employees. But he also is claiming negligence for "failing to guard against theft and diversion of controlled substances" and for failing to report Kwiatkowski's theft, use and/or diversion of any controlled substances... ."

The claim against Medical Solutions also contends the firm is liable for its employees, and Walters is seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages for negligence.

Similar monetary claims are being made on behalf of Fiken, whose husband, William, also is asking for more than $75,000 for loss of consortium.

She also was a patient of the catheterization laboratory between May and September of 2010.

Both Braun and executors for Murphy's estate make identical negligence claims against both HaysMed and Medical Solutions, but Braun's husband, Edwin, is asking for more than $75,000 for loss of consortium.

Braun was a patient at the catheterization laboratory in June 2010.

Murphy, who died Nov. 3, 2012, at the age of 89, was a patient in the catheterization laboratory on both June 7, 2010, and July 12, 2010.

Wichita attorney Lisa McPherson has made her appearance on behalf of Medical Solutions, and has asked for a statement of actual monetary damages.

She also has been granted an additional 14 days to respond to the lawsuit.

Her response is due July 3.