Meningitis Class Action Lawsuit: 4 Things You Need to Know

Attorney Fred Pritzker and his Bad Bug Law Team are representing patients in several states who had epidural injections of potentially tainted steroid medication produced by New England Compounding Center (NECC), a compounding pharmacy located in MA that has been linked to an outbreak of fungal meningitis.  We have filed one lawsuit against NECC on behalf of a client and will be filing many more in the future.  Contact Fred for a free consultation here regarding a meningitis lawsuit.

Below are 5 things you need to know about a meningitis class action lawsuit:

1. Class action cases are generally reserved for commercial claims that do not involve personal injury or wrongful death.  That’s because court rules require that claims and defenses must be common to all cases involving class members. In injury and wrongful death claims, the nature and amount of harm suffered by each claimant varies considerably. In addition, the individuals and companies responsible for the harm suffered by victims of this outbreak may also vary considerably. For example, although NECC may have been the producer of all the contaminated steroids, there may be other responsible parties including the doctors, hospitals or clinics that administered the injections. For those reasons, and several others, it is highly unlikely that victims of this outbreak will be certified as a class.

2. NECC steroid injection patients can recover money for their harms and losses with multi-district litigation (MDL), not a class action lawsuit.
You will still be able to make a claim for injury and death caused by adulterated steroids. However, it will be in the context of Multi-District Litigation (MDL) rather than an actual class action case.

In MDL litigation, many people suffer injury from the same product. Each brings a separate law suit but precisely because there are so many cases involving the same product, court rules allow all those separate cases to be consolidated into one MDL for purposes of gathering information in preparation for taking cases to trial.

That’s because it is very expensive and time consuming to prepare a complex drug case for trial. Rather than duplicate that expense and take all that time in each of the hundreds or thousands of cases likely to result from this outbreak, one federal judge in one single jurisdiction will be assigned the responsibility for all the pre-trial proceedings involving all the NECC outbreak cases. In that MDL, lawyers from around the country will work together to prepare these cases for trial.

3.      MDL is a cost-effective process that often leads to a global settlement.
Fred has won millions for clients whose cases were litigated within the MDL process, including over $40,000,000 for clients injured by one unsafe medical product. In MDL, the per-case costs go down dramatically. Instead of having to pay for all the experts and litigation costs typically associated with a complex case like this one, you end up paying only a small percentage (because they’re shared with all the other claimants). In addition, when there are so many cases processed together (controlled by one judge), it’s often easier to work out a global settlement.

4.      You need a lawyer with experience litigating compounding pharmacy and MDL cases.
Very few lawyers in the United States have ever won money for a client in a case against a compounding pharmacy. In fact, most of the lawyers advertising for NECC cases probably never even heard of a compounding pharmacy before this outbreak. Our law firm, on the other hand, has been litigating cases against compounding pharmacies for many years and has recovered sums in excess of $1 Million for victims of compounding pharmacy errors. That’s why newspapers from around the country have already interviewed and quoted us about this NECC litigation.

MDL cases are complex, expensive and very time consuming. They are among the most challenging cases in the U.S. Our firm has been and continues to be involved in many MDL cases. In one MDL case alone, our lawyers obtained over $40 million for our clients.  Contact Fred for a free consultation here.

NECC was informed of the ongoing fungal meningitis outbreak investigation on September 25 and provided invoice information indicating that approximately 17,500 vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (80 mg/ml) from these lots were packaged in 1ml, 2ml, and 5ml vials and distributed to 75 facilities in 23 states. These lots of MPA were used to treat both peripheral joint and back pain. On September 26, NECC voluntarily recalled the three lots of MPA, followed by an expanded voluntary recall of all lots of MPA and all lots of sterile products intended for intrathecal injection on October 3. This was followed by a voluntary recall of all remaining products on October 6.  The FDA and CDC have also just announced that other NECC medications may also be contaminated with fungus that can cause meningitis, stroke, heart attack, blindness, reactive arthritis and death.

State and local health departments had identified almost 14,000 persons potentially exposed to medications from at least one of these lots.  Four categories of cases in patients who received an injection with MPA produced by NECC had been identified:

  1. fungal meningitis or nonbacterial and nonviral meningitis of subacute onset following epidural injection on or after May 21;
  2. basilar stroke following epidural injection on or after May 21, in a person from whom no cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimen was obtained;
  3. spinal osteomyelitis or epidural abscess at the site of injection following epidural or sacroiliac injection on or after May 21;
  4. septic arthritis or osteomyelitis of a peripheral joint (e.g., knee) diagnosed following injection of that joint on or after May 21.

Clinical meningitis was defined as having one or more symptoms (e.g., headache, fever, stiff neck, or photophobia) and CSF pleocytosis (more than five white blood cells per µL, adjusting for presence of red blood cells), regardless of CSF protein and glucose levels. Clinically diagnosed septic arthritis was defined as new or worsening pain with presence of effusion or new or worsening effusion.

CDC has found two different fungi in patient cerebrospinal fluid, Aspergillus fumigatus and Exserohilum rostratum.

As of today, 233 patients in 15 states had been identified who met one or more of the four definitions, all of whom underwent injection with one or more of the three lots of MPA from NECC.  15 of the people infected with fungus by NECC steroid injections died. These cases will be filed as wrongful death lawsuits. The cases by state are as follows:

Florida (12, 2 deaths), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (30, 2 deaths), Maryland (16, 1 death), Michigan (47, 3 deaths), Minnesota (5), New Hampshire (6), New Jersey (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (7), Pennsylvania (1), Tennessee (59, 6 deaths), Texas (1), Virginia (35, 1 death).

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Category: Product Liability
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