As previously posted [post link to previous blog entry], the New England Compounding Company (NECC) is currently under investigation for tainted pharmaceutical products which have been linked to a potential meningitis outbreak.
The first (of many) lawsuits have been filed in a Massachusetts court against NECC for its negligence which resulted in three patients who were being treated for back pain to develop fungal meningitis.
The Chicago-based law firm of Burke, Wise, Morrissey and Kaveny (BWMK) filed lawsuits on behalf of the three Michigan-based plaintiffs, Margaret Snopkowski, Dirk Thompson, III and Murial Armstrong. According to attorney Elizabeth Kaveny of BWMK, “Doctor’s offices should be a safe place, not somewhere where patients get a life-threatening illness like fungal meningitis. The steroids used to treat patients were contaminated and hundreds of people across the country are now suffering.”
The three plaintiffs were being injected a steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, as treatment for back pain. The steroids were manufactured by NECC, which produces custom-mixed solutions and medications. NECC has recalled more than 17,000 of the steroid and in October 2012, the Food and Drug Administration found fungal contamination in a sealed vial of the steroid.
As of today, there have been 23 confirmed deaths out of 284 meningitis cases that span 16 states. Authorities believe that there may be more cases still to come forward as an estimated 14,000 patients were exposed to the infected steroids.
Of the lawsuits already filed by plaintiffs, NECC is named as the sole defendant. However, as more and more cases come forward, more defendants may soon be named. This can include the medical and pain clinics, as well as the doctors who administered the drugs.
In addition to these three cases filed in Massachusetts, over ten lawsuits have already been filed (including one calling for a class action lawsuit) in Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, New Jersey and Minnesota. Some plaintiffs have confirmed meningitis, while others are filing claims against NECC due to “bodily harm, emotional distress and other personal injuries”.
The meningitis cases do not appear to be at the level of mass settlements of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars yet. In the past, when hundreds (and even thousands) of cases have come forward, the cases have been consolidated into a large class action lawsuit which often results in a mass settlement for damages. According to the plaintiffs, NECC’s insurance coverage is not adequate to cover the extent of their liability.
These lawsuits are just the start of the legal troubles to come for NECC, its officers, directors and others that may be named for their negligence and involvement in the meningitis outbreak.
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