Variety of lawsuits filed in response to fungal meningitis outbreak

The victims of the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak have already begun to seek justice for their injuries or if they’ve lost a loved one who received a contaminated epidural steroid injection.

According to a Reuters report, victims have two choices when deciding to file a lawsuit in response to the fungal meningitis outbreak: they can either sue the compounding lab which likely tainted the vials that were shipped from its facility, or they could file lawsuits against the doctors and health care facilities that purchased and dispensed the contaminated drug. One lawsuit, against New England Compounding Center, would be a product liability lawsuit while the other, against the healthcare providers, would be a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Some legal experts told Reuters they believe the majority of victims will pursue medical malpractice lawsuits because the would-be Defendants in those lawsuits have deeper pockets while New England Compounding Center may not be as wealthy, likely to result in less damages for a victim.

The malpractice lawsuits will require more proof of wrongdoing than a product liability lawsuit. Based on information already made public, it appears New England Compounding Center is at least partially responsible for the deaths of 23 people and more than 300 serious illnesses. This opens New England Compounding Center to product liability lawsuit. The company mixed and distributed thousands of vials of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid painkiller prescribed in the treatment of back pain and inflammation.

In many states, Reuters reports, doctors and health care facilities are exempt from strict liability laws, meaning to name either as a Defendant in a lawsuit related to the fungal meningitis outbreak would require proving that the facility failed to ensure the drugs it took in were safe and that the doctor had an intent to harm a patient by delivering a contaminated vial of the steroid injection.

One lawsuit already filed in a Massachusetts court has sought to freeze the assets of New England Compounding Center so they may be available to victims of the deadly outbreak.

More than 14,000 people may have been exposed to a bacteria that contaminated vials of methylprednisolone acetate mixed at New England Compounding Center. The vials were shipped to 23 states and more than 70 health care facilities. Victims have been reported in all but six of the states which received the vials.

More victims are expected to be confirmed in coming weeks as it could take up to a month for symptoms of fungal meningitis to appear.


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