News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Hundreds of local veterans could have been exposed to Hepatitis C, thanks to dirty equipment at three VA hospitals. The warning came out three years ago, but now a court case in Florida could bring hope to sick vets in the CSRA.
On Wednesday, a veteran in Miami won the first malpractice lawsuit. Robert Metzler was awarded $2.25 million after contracting Hepatitis C. A court ruled the VA used dirty equipment during a colonoscopy.
More than 11,000 veterans in three cities, including Augusta, received similar routine tests with possibly contaminated equipment between 2004 and 2009.
In 2008, Tom Sauls also underwent a colonoscopy but his was at Charles Norwood VA Medical Center.
"When I received that letter, I just looked at it and said, 'Oh my God,'" Sauls said.
The veteran says he tested positive for Hepatitis C. Later, another test showed he was only borderline.
"We put our hope and trust into the system, not realizing the system was not perfect," Sauls said.
Sauls says the recent ruling in Florida gives him and other vets a chance at some sort of recourse.
"Well a lawsuit in another jurisdiction might not have legal precedent value, but it is at least a common sense indicator that there might be merit to such claims brought by veterans or any other potential victims," said Attorney Richard Goolsby Sr.
Goolsby recommends each veteran consult his or her attorney. He says the sooner they talk to an attorney, the better.
"Another factor to consider is that there are strict statutory guidelines to consider," he warned.
The standard statutory timeline is two years in a malpractice suit. However, Goolsby says each veteran needs to consult with an attorney before making any legal decisions.
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