CONCORD, New Hampshire — A federal judge in New Hampshire dismissed a lawsuit Thursday brought by Exeter Hospital against a staffing agency that had once worked with a cardiac technician who infected 32 of the hospital's patients with hepatitis C virus.
U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe said the Maxim agency ended its relationship with David Kwiatkowski more than two years before another agency placed him at Exeter Hospital.
The hospital wanted Maxim to share its costs of settling lawsuits filed by 29 of the infected patients. It has settled all but six of the lawsuits.
The judge left intact the hospital's lawsuit against the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, saying that the registry had far more knowledge of Kwiatkowski's firings and misconduct before he was hired by Exeter Hospital in 2011.
Kwiatkowski was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at Exeter Hospital. He had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft. Since his arrest in 2012, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries. The blood-borne virus can cause liver disease and chronic health problems and authorities say the disease played a role in a Kansas woman's death.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty last year to 16 federal drug charges and is serving 39 years in prison. He admitted to stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his hepatitis C-infected blood.
Exeter Hospital claimed Maxim was notified of Kwiatkowski's termination from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in 2008 after he was seen removing a syringe full of the painkiller, fentanyl, from an operating room. Lawyers for the hospital claimed Maxim failed to report him to the appropriate licensing boards.
But the judge said nothing indicated Maxim knew why the Pennsylvania hospital terminated him.
"It cannot be said that Maxim should have, or could have, foreseen the criminal conduct in which Kwiatkowski engaged while employed at Exeter Hospital or the injuries he inflicted upon the hospital's patients," McAuliffe wrote.
McAuliffe said the hospital's case against the registry should stand because, as a certifying agency, it presumably had much more knowledge of Kwiatkowski's misdeeds.