First Lawsuit Filed Over Meningitis Outbreak

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Oct 13, 2012

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A Minnesota woman, who is one of 185 known patients to contract meningitis from tainted steroid injections, is the first to sue the company identified as the source. 

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota Thursday by Barbe Puro, who is charging New England Compounding Center of Massachusetts with claims that the company produced “a fungus contaminated steroid” that was “dangerous and unfit for use,” reports USA Today. The suit was filed as a class action on behalf of Puro and other Minnesota victims. 

Of the nearly 14,000 patients potentially infected with the tainted pain medication, 14 deaths have occurred, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Medications were reportedly shipped to 23 states, 11 of which have documented cases of the fungal disease.

Puro states in the lawsuit that she was experiencing headaches and nausea after the injection and after going in for tests, it was determined that she was infected with meningitis in connection with the compounding center’s batch of steroid medication. 

The lawsuit charges include the complaint that the company “had a duty to use reasonable care in designing and manufacturing the methylprednisolone acetate steroid doses such that they are not unreasonably dangerous.” according to USA Today

The two main elements in a personal injury case such as this are: 1) that injury occurred, 2) that the injury was caused by the intentional actions or negligence of the Defendant. Puro and the other Plaintiffs are likely to prevail in this lawsuit as it will be arguably easy to prove that New England Compounding Center’s actions caused their injuries and that had it not been for this negligence, the injuries would not have occurred. 

The responsible company has recalled the product and surrendered its operating license while investigations are underway. But the more fundamental issue may be that federal and state oversight of these so-called “compounder pharmacies” were too lax. Compounders, which are pharmacies and not pharmaceutical manufacturers, make specialized treatments from existing drugs. 

In addition to government investigations and the potential for additional criminal charges, the company is likely to face more class action lawsuits and wrongful death suits brought by injured patients and loved ones of those who have perished in connection with the injection.

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