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Problems for Defective St. Jude Heart Valve Patient Lay in Waiting Beyond Surgery

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Milwaukee, WI: Problems encountered by patients with regard to the allegedly defective St. Jude heart valve, often wind up with more trouble than they bargained for even after the allegedly defective heart valve is replaced.

Problems for Defective St. Jude Heart Valve Patient Lay in Waiting Beyond SurgeryAccording to Health Law Week (11/2/12), one Silzone mechanical heart valve patient discovered a whole new issue when her heart valve implant failed, requiring a replacement procedure. In launching a defective heart valve lawsuit against the manufacturer of her heart valve, plaintiff Kathleen Hasenfus found herself suddenly at odds with the health plan provider that undertook the funding for her initial heart valve replacement procedure.

It was in 1999 that Hasenfus underwent her initial open-heart surgery to replace a valve in her heart that had been failing. The patient's ERISA-regulated employee benefits plan paid for the medical expenses related to the surgical procedure.

When the allegedly defective heart valve failed—Silzone heart valve patients have been known to experience valve leak—Hasenfus was required to undergo a second surgery to replace the failed valve.

Hasenfus went on to launch a heart valve lawsuit against St. Jude Medical Inc., the manufacturer of the Silzone heart valve, reportedly receiving compensation in the amount of $167,317 for medical expenses related to the initial implantation, and the secondary removal and replacement procedure.

While it was not identified if Hasenfus received any additional compensation for pain and suffering, Winsert Inc. Medical Plan nonetheless launched its own lawsuit against Hasenfus in order to seek relief for the expenses it had paid for the two failed surgeries.

According to Health Law Week, The Plan contained a subrogation provision giving it the right to recover the expenses it paid from any responsible third party who caused the injury or illness in treatment of which the expenses were incurred.

Both parties moved for summary judgment.

In the end, Hasenfus was found to have made no effort to volunteer to Winsert that she had received compensation from St. Jude Medical. Conversely, it was the view of the Court that Winsert could have made a more concerted effort to monitor the file, and thus would have discovered evidence of the settlement. Both motions were denied, clearing the way for the Winsert lawsuit to proceed, according to the report.

It was reported that Hasenfus received her settlement from Winsert in May 2005. Winsert filed its action against Hasenfus in 2011.

Hasenfus received her defective St. Jude heart valve just a year before the medical devices were recalled. Her settlement from St. Jude Medical totaled $167,317. The lawsuit is Winsert Inc. v. Hasenfus, No. 11-0251 (E.D. Wis. Oct. 15, 2012) and was filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

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