Nova Southeastern University has agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed over improperly sterilized equipment used by dental students on hundreds of patients.
The settlement includes $3.5 million that will be paid out to 1,152 people who received notification letters from the university that they were possibly exposed to viruses because of the issue.
“This happened because they were booking multiple procedures at the orthodontic clinic and the students were not capable or able to adequately sterilize for the next patients,” Class counsel told the Florida Bulldog. “They were sanitizing, not sterilizing. They knew about it for many, many months before they ever disclosed it to the patients.”
Although no patients fell ill, they suffered “emotional distress upon receiving the notification letter,” according to the lawsuit. The letters to patients offered physician consultations and blood tests, even though a review concluded the chances of infection were “extremely low.”
In court documents, university officials did not admit wrongdoing. Joe Donzelli, a university spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the settlement.
“Nova Southeastern University does not provide specific comments on any pending, current or past litigation, and is pleased that this case concluded without undue litigation,” he said in a prepared statement. “NSU Health remains dedicated to taking the best care of its patients.”
A university-commissioned review found the equipment was being cleaned with disinfectant wipes instead of heat sterilization, which is recommended by national guidelines and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The issue involved post-doctoral residents and their use of a high-speed orthodontic hand-piece used to place braces, remove them or repair a bracket. Though the school has agreed to the settlement, Nova Southeastern University has admitted no wrongdoing.
The Court has not ruled in favor of either party. The settlement includes payments of $3,000 each to 1,152 class members – mostly children – totaling nearly $3.5 million. Another 29 plaintiffs consolidated from other cases will receive $2,000 apiece, or $58,000. The lead plaintiff, Tiffany Aguero, whose young daughter was a patient at NSU’s Post-Graduate Orthodontic Clinic, will receive $12,000.
Plaintiff’s attorney Cohen said the mistakes should not have occurred.
“This constitutes a lesson that you make sure you not only have compliance [of CDC requirements] but that you are monitoring compliance. That is so important in a healthcare setting,” he said. “Something like this should never happen.”
Source: Florida bulldog