Distribution of settlement money complete
On 5 June 2014, a $13.75 million settlement was approved by the Supreme Court of Victoria to resolve the claims of 60 women who contracted Hepatitis C at the Croydon Day Surgery between January 2008 and December 2009.
On 12 May 2014, the court made orders requiring group members to register their claims by 19 May 2014 in order to be eligible to participate in the proposed settlement.
As part of the approval process, the Court approved a Settlement Distribution Scheme which provides for the settlement money to be distributed amongst the registered group members. Slater and Gordon was appointed as Administrator of the Scheme.
Assessment of all claims has now occurred and all settlement money has been distributed. This brings the civil proceedings to a close and finalises the rights of all group members.
Class action proceedings
Between January 2008 and December 2009 James Latham Peters, an anaesthetist at the Croydon Day Surgery, infected over 60 women with Hepatitis C.
Slater and Gordon acted for 60 the infected women, and in May 2012 issued a class action in the Supreme Court of Victoria on their behalf. The group of claimants sought damages for their pain and suffering, medical and out-of-pocket expenses, and economic losses, from Croydon Hospital Pty Ltd (the corporate entity of the Croydon Day Surgery), Dr Mark Schulberg, the proprietor of the clinic, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the successor in law to the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria, which was responsible for the registration and regulation of doctors in Victoria during the relevant period. The trial of the case had been scheduled to begin on 28 April 2014.
The class action covered all people who had a procedure performed at the Croydon Day Surgery between January 2008 and December 2009 with Dr Peters as the anaesthetist, and who subsequently contracted Hepatitis C which was connected to Dr Peters and who did not opt out of the class action.
The Plaintiff and all class members were been granted anonymity by the Supreme Court, which prevents the publication of any material that is likely to identify them.
In March 2013, Justice Beach of the Supreme Court of Victoria made orders requiring that any group member in the class action who wished to opt out of the case must do so by 30 May 2013. The court set a deadline of 19 May 2014 for group members wishing to participate in the settlement to register their claims in order to be eligible to receive compensation.
In 2010 the Department of Health traced an outbreak of Hepatitis C to a surgical clinic, Croydon Day Surgery, in Croydon, Victoria. After investigation, the source of the Hepatitis C virus was traced to the anaesthetist at the clinic, Dr James Latham Peters. It was alleged that Dr Peters infected some of the patients he treated with Hepatitis C.
Dr Peters was charged with negligently causing serious injury in relation to the Hepatitis C infections of 55 patients, and he pleaded guilty. He has since been sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years.
In addition to Dr Peters’ actions, however, the incident has raised serious questions about some of the systems and organisations involved in allowing Dr Peters to practise at Croydon Day Surgery.