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January 7, 2021
By Eugene Driscoll | Valley Independent Sentinel | DERBY, CT (January 6, 2021) — A judge has certified a class action lawsuit filed against Griffin Hospital, according to a press release sent Wednesday by the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit alleges Griffin Hospital improperly used multi-dose insulin delivery pens by using the same devices on multiple patients. The disposable needles inside the pens were not reused.
“Multi-dose insulin pens are intended for single-patient use only and are not intended to be used on multiple patients,” according to a statement from Silver Golub and Teitell LLP. “Although multi-dose insulin pens utilize single use needles, the cartridge of insulin itself can be contaminated through the backflow of blood or skin cells from a patient, and thus could potentially transmit an infection if used on another patient.”
The improper use of the device allegedly happened between September 2008 and May 7, 2014.
The certification from a judge in Superior court in Waterbury allows the lawsuit to proceed as a class-action lawsuit. The certification happened Nov. 23. Griffin sought permission to immediately appeal to the state’s Supreme Court, but was denied Dec. 14.
The Valley Indy reached out to Griffin Hospital Wednesday afternoon for comment. The organization responded Wednesday night in a prepared statement attributed to Todd J. Liu
vice president, accountable care and general counsel.
“Griffin has been open and transparent about the events relating to the prior use of insulin pens from the time the hospital voluntarily came forward in 2014. Griffin’s first priority was ensuring that people potentially exposed were notified, safe, and given the opportunity to be tested, which Griffin initiated and did at its expense. Griffin voluntarily disclosed what occurred in its letter to individuals potentially affected. Beyond the information that the hospital has already publicly released in 2014 to its patients and the community about these events, Griffin respectfully declines to comment further about any ongoing matter in litigation and we will continue to vigorously defend against the claims being made.”
In 2014, hospital officials held a press conference and set up a website saying that about 3,100 patients had insulin pens ordered for them while in the hospital between 2008 and 2014.
Hospital officials pointed out the disposable needles inside the pens were not re-used, but the pens themselves were reused.
Thousands of patients were notified, and the hospital offered to test them for hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
At the time, hospital officials said the “risk of disease transmission is considered extremely small.”
“At this time there is no evidence that disease transmission has occurred to any patient at Griffin Hospital resulting from improper use of insulin pens, and the hospital has not identified any patients that in fact received an insulin injection from an insulin pen used on another patient,” the hospital said in a 2014 statement posted on its website.
Hearst CT published an article in 2014 in which an Ansonia man blamed the hospital after he was diagnosed with hepatitis C, to which the hospital issued a statement in response.
The first plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit, which commenced in 2016, are Anthony Diaz, Bruce Sypniewski and Daisy Gmitter, but the class-action nature of the lawsuit opens it up to at least 3,000 people.
The press release from the plaintiff’s law firm also alleges Griffin Hospital staff improperly removed patient identification labels affixed to a multi-dose pen prescribed to a patient, and then used that device on other patients.
The plaintiffs allege that the improper use of the insulin pens happened due to “several institutional failures” by the hospital (and Griffin Health), including the failure to have policies in place regarding the use of the devices and a lack of education and training for the staffers using the devices.
The lawsuit is now pending in Superior Court in Waterbury.
Now that the court action has been allowed to proceed as a class action lawsuit, and the “class” itself has been defined, the next step is for the court to establish how to formally notify the people in the plaintiff pool. That could happen in the spring or summer of this year, according to the press release.