Around 60 Victorian women infected with the hepatitis C virus at a Croydon clinic have reached a proposed $13.75 million settlement in their class action.
Law firm Slater and Gordon, which is representing most of the group, announced today that following an agreement reached with the defendants in the proceeding, it now appears the women involved in the class action would be spared the trauma of going through a Supreme Court trial.
The women contracted the hepatitis C virus or are carrying the hepatitis C antibody after undergoing procedures at the Croydon Day Surgery between January 2008 and December 2009.
A Department of Health investigation in 2010 traced the outbreak to anaesthetist Dr James Latham Peters, who was later jailed for a maximum 14 years.
Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Julie Clayton said the women involved in the class action were relieved that an agreement has been reached.
“This has been a major public health incident,” Ms Clayton said.
“It has been a nightmare for our clients. Their faith in the medical system has been seriously tested. The last thing they needed was to be forced to go to trial.
“No amount of money can change what has happened to them, but an out-of-court settlement will allow them to focus on the future,” she said.
The class action was against the director of the former Croydon Day Surgery, Dr Mark Schulberg, Croydon Hospital Pty Ltd, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the successor to the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria.
The women claimed the defendants were negligent and they sought damages for their pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost earnings.
“Dr Schulberg had a duty to ensure that women who underwent procedures were not exposed to a risk of contracting a life threatening disease and The Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria was responsible for overseeing Dr Peters’ medical registration,” Ms Clayton said.
The Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency has assumed the liabilities of the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria as part of a new national scheme.
It is believed to be the first time that a personal injury class action has been lodged against a medical practitioner regulator in Australia.
The Supreme Court of Victoria has granted the women involved in the class action anonymity. They do not wish to comment publicly.
The proposed settlement is subject to court approval, which is expected to be sought at a further hearing in the coming weeks.