Scope-Makers Face Lawsuits After UCLA “Superbug” Outbreak

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March 3, 2015 — The family of a woman who died from a “superbug” infection at UCLA has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the duodenoscope for her wrongful death.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the family of Antonia Torres Cerda has filed a lawsuit against Olympus Corp. in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The lawsuit accuses Olympus of negligence for selling a “defective” duodenoscope that is unreasonably difficult to sterilize. This resulted in transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that caused her to suffer “significant injury and death,” according to the complaint.

Olympus is also facing a lawsuit from Aaron Young, an 18 year-old high school student who is still hospitalized. His attorneys claim Olympus changed the design of the scope in mid-2014, removing a cleaning channel but failing to strengthen the cleaning protocols.

At least 179 patients who underwent an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October 2014 and January 2015 have been warned that they were exposed to a risk of carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) infections.

Seven of those patients developed infections, including two who died. CRE infections have up to a 50% fatality rate because the bacteria is resistant to nearly all antibiotics, including the last-resort antibiotic carbapenem.

The FDA warned last month that the complex design of the scopes means it “may not be possible” to effectively sterilize them between uses. The warning was issued one day after UCLA reported the outbreak, but the FDA has been aware of the danger since a similar outbreak infected 16 people in France in 2009.

Duodenoscopes are used in about 500,000 procedures in the United States every year. The medical community has known about the risk of disease-transmission for decades, but drug-resistant “superbugs” are relatively new phenomenon.

In January, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle reported that an outbreak started in 2012, infected at least 32 patients, and contributed to 11 deaths.

 

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