Class-action lawsuit filed against Salem Hospital, Mass General Brigham

SALEM — A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Salem Hospital and Mass General Brigham for the potential exposure of HIV and hepatitis viruses to hundreds of patients.

The lawsuit, announced on Friday, was filed by Keches Law Group on behalf of Melinda Cashman, of Amesbury, who has allegedly “suffered permanent injuries, additional testing requirements, extreme anxiety, emotional distress, and decreased quality of life due to potential exposure to these infections,” according to a statement released by the firm.

On Wednesday, the hospital announced that there were nearly 450 endoscopy patients who may have been exposed to the viruses during a span of two years. Endoscopy is a procedure in which a camera, attached to a tube, is inserted into the body for a wide variety of procedures.

The potential exposures took place between June 2021 and April 2023. The hospital is currently testing for HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C  in patients who received care during that span.

In addition to Salem Hospital and Mass General Brigham, 10 employees have also been listed as defendants, according to the complaint.

The complaint lists counts of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress against each of the defendants.

According to the statement, the lawsuit is seeking “answers and assurances” as to how and why the potential exposures happened, and to make sure an incident like this never happens again.

“For almost two full years, hundreds of patients went to Salem Hospital because they needed a valuable and necessary procedure performed, and they put their faith in the professionals at an institution they trusted,” the statement reads. “Keches Law wants to hold the institution that so badly failed its patients accountable for their actions.”

According to a statement from the hospital, all patients potentially impacted were contacted. The statement added that after the hospital consulted with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the risk of infection was determined to be “extremely small.”

Keches Law Attorney Jonathan Sweet said in a statement that Cashman “deserves to have someone take responsibility for years of negligence.”

“We want victims of this tragedy to know that we are fighting for them and that the people who wronged them need to be held accountable,” Sweet said.

In addition to an order determining that defendants are liable for the damages caused by “unlawful and tortious acts and omissions,” the complaint also seeks a reward of class damages, along with interest costs and attorney fees, as well as an order “enjoining defendants from continuing the unlawful practices.”