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Years after thousands of veterans learned they may have been exposed to infections at government-run hospitals, many are still mired in legal battles seeking compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In the latest legal setback, a federal appeals court has ruled against a Tennessee veteran who claims he contracted hepatitis B after employees at the Murfreesboro VA hospital negligently failed to properly clean colonoscopy equipment. The ruling could have an impact on similar lawsuits against the VA.

The court found that Carl Huddleston's claim, filed more than three years after the procedure, came too late, even though he acted within months after he learned his health could have been endangered. The three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Huddleston was one of more than 10,000 veterans notified in 2009 that they needed to be tested for hepatitis B and C and HIV infection because of endoscopic cleaning mistakes at VA facilities in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Augusta, Ga. and Miami. The VA said in 2009 that 13 veterans tested positive for the Hepatitis B virus, 34 tested positive for Hepatitis C, and six veterans have tested positive for HIV.


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