DENVER — Calls are still pouring into the Colorado Health Department’s hotline, from some of Dr. Stephen Stein’s 8,000 patients who fear he may have exposed them to deadly diseases.
Dr. Stein is accused of reusing dirty needles and syringes over and over again. Doctors say the unsanitary practice could spread blood born diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
But one question the health department’s call center can’t answer is a legal one: can Dr. Stein’s patients sue him for damages?
Anderson, Hemmat and Levine Attorney, Ethan McQuinn told us, “Yes, they can file a lawsuit.”
McQuinn said all 8,000 of Stein’s patients could sue for emotional distress, and you test positive for HIV or hepatitis B or C, you should be entitled to other damages.
But he said, “most likely it’s not going to be enough money to compensate the amount of people who’ve been affected.”
McQuinn said Colorado has caps on how much money you can get from a malpractice case. And because there are potentially thousands of defendants, the money would have to be split up.
McQuinn also told us in order to win a lawsuit, patients would have to prove they were infected in Stein’s office, “that could be something very difficult to prove,” he said.
And if Stein had fallen on hard economic times, like his run down Denver home seems to suggest, it’s possible he didn’t have malpractice insurance, especially since he hadn’t been practicing dentistry since June of 2011, “if the dentist let his insurance coverage lapse, then while claims can be brought against the dentist personally he may not have money to actually pay.”