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Hepatitis C-infected Exeter Hospital patients seek to sue staffing agency

Hepatitis C-infected Exeter Hospital patients seek to sue staffing agency

Four people claiming they were infected with hepatitis C while patients at Exeter Hospital are asking a judge to allow them to sue the staffing agency that hired a hospital worker charged with spreading the disease.

Through Portsmouth attorney Michael Rainboth, the four patients are asking a Rockingham County Superior Court judge to allow them to add Triage Staffing Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska, as a new defendant. The four patients filed an 11-count lawsuit against Exeter Hospital and, due to new information, now wish to also hold Triage responsible, Rainboth said.

Triage has not yet been served with the suit and therefore hasn’t responded.

Elaine Michaud, from the Manchester law firm of Devine Millimet, is representing Exeter Hospital. A call to her office Friday was referred to Exeter Hospital, which has consistently declined to comment about all pending litigation.

Rainboth’s clients allege they contracted hepatitis C in the hospital’s cardiac cauterization laboratory due to drug diversion by hospital technician David Kwiatkowsi. Federal prosecutors have called Kwiatkowski, 33, a “serial infector” and allege he stole anesthetic drugs intended for patients, injected himself, then returned contaminated needles that were then used on patients.

Kwiatkowi tested positive for hepatitis C in 2010 and the same strain of the disease has been found in more than 30 Exeter Hospital patients, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Rainboth’s clients allege Exeter Hospital failed to prevent the spread of hepatitis C by an employee, failed to prevent drug diversion, was negligent when hiring Kwiatkowki, and negligent with regard to his training and supervision.

The infected patients now accuse Triage Staffing of negligent hiring, training and supervision. They accuse Triage of wanton and reckless conduct by retaining Kwiatkowski when the staffing company knew, or should have known, he was addicted to drugs, had hepatitis C and had been previously fired from several hospitals for causes including drug diversion.

Triage placed Kwiatkowski at Exeter Hospital in April 2011, and hospital officials have said he passed a criminal background check and drug test.

Rainboth’s clients seek enhanced damages from the hospital and Triage Staffing

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