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Multicounty Litigation Sought For Surgery Center Infection Lawsuits in New Jersey

The New Jersey Supreme Court has been asked to centralize and consolidate all infection lawsuits filed against a surgery center in the state, which may have exposed thousands of patients to bloodborne diseases due to unsanitary conditions.

The lawsuits each raise similar allegations against HealthPlus Surgery Center in Saddlebrook, New Jersey, which was shut down for several days in September 2018, after investigators found rust spots on surgical equipment and determined that the surgical center had a policy where nurses decided whether it was okay to use rusty surgical tools on patients.

In December 2018, the New Jersey Department of Health issued a report explaining why the center was shut down temporarily, leading to nearly 4,000 warning letters that recommended former patients get tested for HIV, hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases.

Investigators also discovered unsanitary bed sheet practices, in which sheets were soiled and not properly cleaned or changed routinely. Among other issues identified were surgeons and medical staff failing to cover their beards and facial hair during procedures, and one scenario where stretchers ready for use were observed with red, wet, blood-like stains.

On October 1, Glenn A. Grant, the Acting Administrative Director for New Jersey state courts issued a Notice to the Bar (PDF), announcing that the New Jersey Supreme Court had received an application for multicounty litigation (MCL) from 80 plaintiffs who claim they were injured or suffered damages as a result of the problems at the surgery center.

The application indicates there are a number of additional plaintiffs who have filed, or are likely to file, claims as well, asking for the cases to be centralized before one judge in Bergen County for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

“We believe centralized management would be fair and convenient to all parties, witnesses, and counsel. The cases will involve the same legal theories, and most likely the same experts. The cases will be subject to the same motions, and would benefit from consolidated Court Orders,” the application states. “Moreover, should the cases be tried separately, they may result in inconsistent Court Orders and rulings, despite having largely the same fact pattern and liability. Indeed, coordinated discovery would facilitate the resolution of the cases.”

In November 2018, HealthPlus issued a warning letter to approximately 3,700 patients who underwent a procedure from January 1, 2018 through September 7, 2018, instructing them to undergo blood testing to confirm they have not contracted HIV, or hepatitis. The letter supplied instructions on how patients may receive testing by a third party at no expense.

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