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Attorney Robert Eglet, left, embraces Carl Brunson, 71 and his wife Bonnie, 70, after the verdict in Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. Health Plan of Nevada must pay $500 million in punitive damages for its role in the 2008 hepatitis C outbreak. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff Scheid)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada jury has ordered the state’s largest health management organization to pay $500 million in punitive damages to three plaintiffs in a civil negligence lawsuit stemming from a Las Vegas hepatitis outbreak.

Two companies — both subsidiaries of publicly traded UnitedHealth Group Inc. — signed a low-bid contract with the physician who ran the clinic where the outbreak started, despite warnings that he sped through procedures and pinched pennies at his clinics so much that patients were at risk of contracting blood-borne diseases, attorneys for those suing the companies argued.

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