Families of Two California Patients Awarded $253 Million in Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against DaVita
LOS ANGELES – A federal jury recently awarded $253 million in damages to the families of two patients who died after being treated at clinics owned by dialysis corporation DaVita.
“While nothing can compensate for the senseless loss of a loved one, at least these families can have some peace knowing DaVita is being held responsible,” said Roberto Acosta, a dialysis patient from Baldwin Park, Calif. “At the same time, it reminds us that our lives as dialysis patients are so fragile, and maybe this ruling will spur these big dialysis companies to do more to ensure safe care.”
Plaintiffs alleged that DaVita employees treated the patients with GranuFlo, a product made by the nation’s other largest dialysis company, Fresenius, even though DaVita knew it could cause toxic pH imbalances and alkalosis. The product was later recalled in 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the wrongful death lawsuits.
The two patients from California were Irma Menchacha, who received treatment at DaVita University Dialysis Center in Sacramento and died June 6, 2008, and Gary Saldana, who received treatment at DaVita Almond Wood Dialysis in Madera and died Oct. 3, 2010. The third patient received care at a DaVita clinic in Chicago and died in 2014.
According to the June 27 verdict issued in Denver, each of the two families from California were awarded between $1.5 million and $2 million in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages, while the family of the Chicago patient received $5 million in compensatory damages and $125 million in punitive damages.
DaVita and Fresenius have a virtual monopoly in California, owning 72 percent of the clinics in the state. Patients report incidents of cockroaches, mice, blood stains and dirty bathrooms. The companies had a combined $3.9 billion in profits from their U.S. dialysis operations in 2016, and the profit margin of their clinics is nearly five times higher than an average hospital in California.
California voters will weigh a ballot initiative for the Nov. 6 election that limits dialysis corporations’ revenues to 15 percent above the amount they spend on patient care and pushes them to invest in hiring more staff, buying new medical equipment, and improving facilities.
According to the U.S. Renal Data System, 66,000 Californians with life-threatening kidney failure get treatment in the state’s dialysis clinics.