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Court throws out part of Hepatitis C lawsuit against ND health care system

MINOT, N.D.—A judicial appointee has dismissed a portion of a lawsuit against Trinity Health system in Minot over a Hepatitis C outbreak.

Special master Karen Klein signed an order earlier this month to dismiss the claims of Mark Krebsbach, leaving the portion of the lawsuit brought by ManorCare Health Services against Trinity to proceed in North Central District Court.

Klein said Krebsbach's case was barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to professional malpractice and that no evidence showed Trinity's actions caused injury to Krebsbach's wife, who had been a resident of ManorCare.

Several outbreak victims sued ManorCare in federal court in early 2014 following a Hepatitis C outbreak uncovered in 2013. Most of the victims identified in the outbreak were ManorCare residents.

ManorCare then brought a third-party claim against Trinity, alleging Trinity was responsible for the outbreak. Victims sued Trinity in February 2015. Victims in the ManorCare case later dropped their lawsuit to also sue Trinity. Trinity reached settlement with 21 victims in December 2016.

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver and spreads through the blood or body fluids of an infected person. It can cause few symptoms, so the estimated 3.9 million people in the U.S. have the disease, but don't know it, according to WebMD.

In the latest development, Krebsbach argued the case involves a phlebotomist — a medical position not considered a professional entitled to the protection of the two-year statute of limitation. He also cited circumstances that created a delay in his filing a lawsuit. Krebsbach had sued in September 2016.

Klein ruled the statute of limitation applies because the work of the phlebotomist needs to be considered in the context of being part of the practice of the medical profession. She determined Krebsbach had information available to him on which he could have acted more than two years before he initiated his lawsuit.

"A plaintiff does not need detailed proof of a defendant's negligence before the statute of limitations begins to run; he only needs information indicating the defendant's possible negligence," she wrote.