LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada jury is being asked to hold the state's largest health management company responsible for up to $1 billion in damages for sending two women to an outpatient medical clinic owned by a once-prominent Las Vegas physician where they contracted incurable hepatitis C in 2005.

With plaintiffs Helen Meyer, 76, and Bonnie Brunson, 70, sitting behind him, attorney Robert Eglet opened a civil trial Wednesday alleging that Health Plan of Nevada disregarded evidence including a dossier compiled by another Las Vegas gastroenterologist that clinic owner Dr. Dipak Desai was endangering patients at his endoscopy clinics.

A "reasonable and responsible" HMO wouldn't send patients to a doctor that it knows is "cutting costs in a manner that jeopardizes the health and safety of its insured members," Eglet told the jury.

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