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Scott Kappes
Scott Kappes
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Contaminated Surgical Instrument Lawsuit Alleges Conspiracy

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In late 2004 about 3,800 surgery patients at Durham Regional
and Duke Health Raleigh Hospitals were exposed to surgical equipment that had
been mistakenly washed in used hydraulic fluid. Empty detergent drums had been
used to store fluid removed from the hospital elevators. Detergent suppliers
then erroneously shipped the same drums back to the hospitals as new detergent.
Dozens of patients have made claims that they have suffered injuries brought
about by being exposed to the tainted surgical equipment.

Duke
Health officials have maintained the instruments were safe because they were
sterilized after being washed in the hydraulic fluid.

In
a lawsuit filed Tuesday, sixty-seven patients alleged that Steris Corp. and
Cardinal Health, the companies that supplied the hospitals with sterilization
equipment, were negligent, employed deceptive trade practices, and were
involved a conspiracy to cover up the incident.

“We
were able to reach a settlement with Duke,” said Thomas Henson, a lawyer
for the patients. “Our clients are depending on us to hold the remaining
defendants … fully accountable for their conduct in exposing hundreds of
patients to extremely dangerous material in a health-care and operating-room
setting.”

The
lawsuit claims that the hospital system and the two companies acted jointly to
destroy evidence and stonewall patient requests for information, among other
inappropriate actions in an effort to reduce liability.

The
defendant companies declined to comment on the pending litigation.