Major Blow for Patients Fearful of Hepatitis C - 8 News NOW

Major Blow for Patients Fearful of Hepatitis C

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A judge has ruled that a class action lawsuit will not go forward against clinics involved in the hepatitis C outbreak. The ruling affects patients who were not infected with hepatitis C, but still had to go through days and months of anxiety.

Now if they want justice, they'll have to file a lawsuit on their own.

70-year-old Eugenia Hedstrom will never forget they day she found out unsafe injection practices at a clinic may have put her life in danger, "It is frightening. They are telling me that I possibly have AIDS or hepatitis, so it really scared me."

After getting tested, she and thousands of others waited days for her results while anxiety built, "It's very stressful because I also have a son to care for and if something happens to me, what is going to happen to him? So that made it worse. It was bad."

Even though she tested negative, Hedstrom feels she deserves some compensation. Thousands feel the same. But Judge Allan Earl denied to grant class action status for non-infected patients.

Attorney Robert Cottle has more than 4,500 patients who tested negative, "To not have class status granted, it is very difficult. Especially for a lot of my clients who are elderly, 50 or older, because that's the kind of people who went to the clinics for those procedures. So they are very worried they will never see any justice."

Eyewitness News contacted Judge Earl but he declined to comment on his decision.

"Now they have just put a big roadblock in their way and they don't know what they are going to do," said Cottle.

All hope is not lost. Patients have until February of 2009 to file their own lawsuit, but attorneys say a patient's litigation costs might be more expensive than what they could win in a lawsuit, making it risky to even try.

Cottle says a class action lawsuit was supposed to make it economically feasible for everyone. Now it's every patient for themselves.

"I don't think it is fair to all of the people who are involved in this," said Hedstrom.

Judge Earl is expected to release an order explaining why he made the decision to deny class action status.

The option to file with other patients is still there. But because of this decision we could see thousands of lawsuits filed which could take years before they all go to trial.

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