Trial begins for insurers in Vegas hep C outbreak

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm •  Published: February 20, 2013

The defense was starting its opening statements Wednesday afternoon after jurors heard from Eglet and Meyer's attorney, Will Kemp.

Eglet and Kemp plan to ask the jury to waive a Nevada medical liability cap of $350,000 and award the plaintiffs $10 million each in compensatory damages and up to $1 billion in punitive damages.

Desai, 63, a former member of the state Board of Medical Examiners, faces trial in state court in April and federal court in May on separate criminal charges stemming from the outbreak. He has denied wrongdoing, declared bankruptcy and surrendered his medical license, while his lawyers have waged a yearslong fight to prove that he is so incapacitated by strokes and other physical ailments that he is unfit for trial.

State prosecutors accuse Desai of faking his medical conditions in an attempt to escape prosecution.

In 2011, Eglet and Kemp won hundreds of millions of dollars in civil judgments against pharmaceutical companies they blamed for supplying recklessly large 50 milliliter vials of the powerful anesthetic propofol to Desai clinics where 10 or 20 milliliter doses were commonly needed for outpatient colonoscopy procedures.

Desai and his clinics reached undisclosed settlements with plaintiffs before trial in those cases.

The Health Plan of Nevada case is expected to take at least six weeks before Clark County District Judge Timothy Williams.

On Wednesday, Eglet told the jurors that while the medical industry standard for a colonoscopy procedure was 20 minutes to an hour, Desai hurried his staff to treat enough patients to bill the insurance company for up to 60 procedures in a nine-hour day.

The plaintiffs' lawyer said that by 2005, the same year Meyer and Brunson were infected, Desai cut colonoscopy procedure times to three to 15 minutes per patient.

"Patient turnover was the priority," Eglet said. "Not patient safety. Not quality of care. Not making sure patient diagnosis is correct."

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Find Ken Ritter at http://twitter.com/krttr .