MIAMI - After 16 months of deliberation, Federal Judge Adalberto Jordan on Nov. 19 entered a ruling in favor of the plaintiff in the first trial in a medical malpractice case against a U.S. VA Hospital for improperly sanitizing medical equipment and infecting patients with blood borne diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B, the Coral Gables, Fla.-based law firm Colson Hicks Eidson announced. "We hope that this verdict will go a long way in promoting quality health care for our veterans seeking care at Veteran administration and military hospitals and clinics throughout our country. The men and women that serve our country in this capacity deserve the best care; not sloppy, dirty and dangerous medical care," said Ervin A. Gonzalez, partner at and attorney for plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Robert Metzler.
The case alleged that Robert Metzler, a 69 year old Air Force Veteran, contracted Hepatitis C at the Miami VA hospital as a result of the hospitals improper sanitation practices. On June 13, 2007, Mr. Metzler underwent a colonoscopy with lesion removal at the Miami VA Healthcare Center. On March 23, 2009, Mr. Metzler was notified by letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs that he should be tested for certain blood borne illnesses, including hepatitis, because some medical equipment used in the endoscopies and colonoscopies at the VA were not properly sanitized in between patient procedures. After receiving the letter, Mr. Metzler was tested on March 27, 2009 and found to have Hepatitis C. Based on his having previously tested negative for Hepatitis in August 2006, Mr. Metzler's VA doctors determined that this was a "new, active infection."
"As a result of the negligence of the VA staff and health care providers, Mr. Metzler contracted Hepatitis C during a routine medical procedure because the equipment was not properly cleaned, sterilized, or sanitized," added Gonzalez. An investigation conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that more than 11,000 veterans received colonoscopies with improperly-cleaned equipment between 2004 and 2009 at VA hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga.
The case was tried in Federal Court by Ervin A. Gonzalez and Deborah J. Gander from July 11 - 17, 2011, on behalf of the plaintiffs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Rosen.
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