Negligence, malpractice lawsuit filed against Davis Hospital for hep C outbreak

Friday , June 29, 2018 - 5:38 PM

FARMINGTON — A Weber County woman is suing Davis Hospital and Medical Center for alleged malpractice after she contracted hepatitis C while visiting the hospital in 2011.

The lawsuit — which was filed Thursday in Farmington’s 2nd District Court — states that Karen Samulski became infected with the virus while she was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 3, 2011, for “chest pain, shortness of breath, and a concern about possible pneumonia,” according to the suit. 

Samulski was admitted to the emergency room, where she was given medications by a nurse, who is said in the lawsuit to be Elet Neilson, a former nurse of the hospital.

The lawsuit claims that Neilson used a contaminated needle or tainted medication to treat Samulski and gave her the virus. 

Samulski was unaware that she could have hepatitis C until she received a letter from the hospital in 2015 saying she could have been exposed to the virus, according to the suit. 

When she was tested for the virus in December 2015, Samulski’s results came back positive for the same genotype as Neilson, the suit says. Samulski began treatment immediately after the discovery. 

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The daily treatment resulted in “significant side effects” including fatigue, nausea, vomiting and numbness in her fingers.

McKay-Dee and Davis Hospital alerted 7,200 former patients of possible hepatitis C exposure after Neilson’s alleged activities came to light in October 2015.

More than 3,700 people came forward for blood tests — including Samulski — and the Utah Department of Health said 16 positive cases of hepatitis C 2b were identified.

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Aside from the lawsuit filed Thursday, Neilson is facing federal charges and is being blamed for spreading the virus in McKay-Dee and Davis hospitals. She was indicted in July 2017 on 16 federal charges consisting of eight counts of tampering with a consumer product and eight counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.

The 2017 indictment states Neilson was employed at Davis Hospital and Medical Center from 2011 to 2013 and worked as a nurse in the emergency room.

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Disciplinary records from the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing show that Neilson admitted in October 2013 to taking Benadryl from the hospital without authorization multiple times between August 2012 and April 2013. As a punishment, she paid a $500 fine, according to UDOPL records. 

By the time she was formally disciplined by the state, Neilson was no longer employed at the Layton hospital and was working for McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. 

In another UDOPL disciplinary order, Neilson admitted in December 2014 to “diverting quantities of the controlled substance Dilaudid and morphine from her hospital employer’s stock for her own personal use” between June and December 2014. She told an investigator that she did this roughly once a week, the order said. 

Neilson had her nurse’s license suspended and was placed on probation for five years. 

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Neilson pleaded not guilty in August to all federal charges. Her three-day jury trial is set to begin in September

If convicted of all 16 counts, Neilson faces a maximum of 96 years in prison. However, if Neilson is found guilty of all eight charges of tampering with a consumer product and found to cause serious bodily injury in each charge, her sentence will increase to a maximum of 176 years in prison.

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at jscholl@standard.net or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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