First VA colonoscopy case goes to trial after Miami vet contracted hepatitis C


Miami Herald – July 10, 2011 Fred Tasker

A Coral Gables veteran who filed a $30 million medical malpractice lawsuit charging that an improper colonoscopy at the Miami Veterans’ Administration hospital gave him life-threatening hepatitis C heads to Miami federal court Monday in the first of what could be dozens of similar trials. More than 11,000 U.S. veterans received colonoscopies with improperly cleaned equipment at VA hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga., between 2004 and 2009. Of the veterans who had the procedure at the three facilities, five have tested positive for HIV, 25 for hepatitis C and eight for hepatitis B. In Miami, 11 additional suits charging emotional distress have been settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Nine malpractice suits have been filed in Tennessee. Officials in Georgia couldn’t say how many have been filed there. None has gone to trial until now.

“They don’t want to open the floodgates and take responsibility for every one of the veterans who may or may not have been infected by their procedures,” contends Alexander Perkins, the plaintiff’s lawyer in that case.

– Attorney Alex Perkins was first lawyer to reach a successful settlement under the Federal Tort Claims Act alleging the VA’s medical neglicence in failing to propely clean and operate colonoscopy equipment led to the contraction of HIV. The Federal Courts dismissed many of the other FTCA claims brought by Veterans who received notice that they may have been exposed to HIV or Hepatitis.