Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

The Tennessee Meningitis Litigation continues. As it does so, we have also been staying on top of litigation in surrounding states. According to information about two cases, having the cases back in the state court will give the clients involved in the lawsuits a clear advantage. According to state court rules unlike federal court rules, discovery will begin immediately which should answer some critical questions, including the amount of insurance coverage the compounding firm has. Attorneys involved in these cases including those in Tennessee have stated that the amount of insurance coverage the drug firm has will be critical in the awarding of any potential damages.

According to state and federal officials, the New England Compounding Center is responsible for distributing a spinal steroid that has resulted in thirty-six deaths including thirteen in Tennessee and sickened hundreds of other people.

In another development, lawyers for some of the plaintiffs in pending Massachusetts cases have reached a tentative agreement on an inspection of the drug compounding firm’s facilities. In a decision issued on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor 4th concluded that the issues in the two cases did not raise sufficient questions of federal law to justify a transfer to federal court. The cases were originally filed in Middlesex Superior Court but then moved to federal court at the request of the compounding firm’s lawyers. This ruling will not have any immediate impact on other cases in Tennessee that were transferred from circuit court in Nashville to the U.S. District court in Massachusetts. Different rules will apply because the cases were filed in Tennessee against a company in another state.
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We have been moving forward with litigation surrounding the Tennessee Fungal Meningitis Outbreak. Unfortunately, it appears that there may be more tragic cases that have yet to be diagnosed. According to Tennessee Health Commissioner, Dr. John Dreyzehner, fungal infections are up twenty-seven percent in Tennessee after rechecking new illness updates in the national outbreak after Thanksgiving. The company that had contaminated injections is continuing action to revamp and improve oversight of pharmacy labs. The total number of fungal infections and illnesses in Tennessee is now one hundred and seven, including twenty-three new cases since the Thanksgiving holiday. Eighty-one of the illnesses since the outbreak began are cases of meningitis, but almost all the new cases are localized infections. One new case was meningitis alone, while two other people were diagnosed with both meningitis and localized infections. Tennessee’s death toll remains at thirteen.

So far, known infections are linked to only the recalled steroid methylprednisolone acetate, however, Tennessee doctors are urged to look for illnesses stemming from other New England Compounding products where the contaminated injections were found. It is also possible that contaminants also have been detected in unopened vials of triamcinolone, a steroid that is injected into the eye as a treatment for a type of vision loss called age-related macular degeneration. According to Dr. John Dreyzehner, the longest period for an infection to occur after the last injection of methylprednisolone acetate has been eighty-two days in Tennessee and nationwide the longest reported incubation period has been one hundred and twenty days.

The antifungal drug Voriconazole can be prescribed for the localized infections, but the boils also have to be drained and cleaned out. In a few cases, another antifungal, Amphotericin B, has been prescribed. According to Dr. John Jernigan, who leads the nationwide response to the outbreak for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the time is unknown for how long people will have to take Voriconazole.” Also, Dr. John Jernigan stated that, “a smaller cluster of another type of fungal meningitis also caused by spinal injections more than a decade ago had an incubation period as long as one hundred and sixty days.
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The litigation surrounding the tragic Tennessee Meningitis Cases is quickly escalating. Our office represents several families that have been impacted by what appears to be the negligent and even reckless conduct of the Massachusetts-based New England Compounding Center. As the cases move forward we all will be searching for answers as to why this behavior was not caught and how we can prevent it from happening in the future.

I recently spoke with the local NBC affiliate regarding the current status of the Tennessee Litigation and what we can expect. You can watch the interview below:

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Our Tennessee law office has filed and is investigating other fungal meningitis cases in Middle Tennessee. It is apparent that Tennessee has been among the hardest hit by the fungal meningitis outbreak and, by extension, Tennessee Courts will likely be among the most active in handling and addressing these types of cases. The epidural steroid injections are a product distributed in Tennessee and, even though they are used for medical purposes, the cases surrounding this outbreak will be governed under product liability laws.

Fungal Meningitis resulting from epidural steroid injections has been confirmed in 19 States according to recent statistical data provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Currently, the most cases of confirmed fungal meningitis are located in Tennessee and Michigan, with those two States accounting for nearly half of the 354 known cases. In Tennessee, 10 people have died from complications related to fungal meningitis, the most deaths from the outbreak found in any State.

Tennessee appears to have been hit particularly hard with this outbreak, with middle Tennessee being the most active area of confirmed cases in the State. Nearly 1,000 people in Tennessee may have received injections from the three recalled lots containing 17,676 vials of the potentially tainted steroid, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner said on October 8, 2012. He added that Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville received some 2,000 vials of the tainted epidural steroid injection, more than any other facility in the country.

The tragic impact of the fungal meningitis outbreaks continue to touch our fellow Tennesseans.

It appears that the matter has also now developed into a national health crisis causing twenty-six people to become sick and four of them dying in five states after they received spinal injections with contaminated medicine in them. The Food and Drug Administration has now identified the New England Compounding Center which has had a history of violation as the most likely source.

The FDA Public Affairs director, Erica V. Jefferson, stated that, they are “working with several state health departments and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy on this issue and is still investigating the scope and cause of the outbreak of fungal meningitis.” On September 26th the New England Compounding Center voluntarily recalled three lots of Methylprednisolone (PF) 80mg/ml Injection produced at the Center. The lot numbers included in the recall are:

In a recent case, Daniela Griffin was admitted into the Medical Center on December 30, 2009 to give birth to her son; Christopher Griffin Jr. Obstetrician Dr. Coupet was overseeing the delivery. In the middle of delivery, a complication known as “shoulder dystocia” occurred. This means that the baby’s shoulder got stuck behind his mother’s pelvic bone which made normal delivery impossible. According to the medical malpractice lawsuit filed on February 27, 2012, Dr. Coupet in his attempt to free the baby’s shoulder has been alleged to have “negligently and carelessly used greater than gentle traction” to the head and neck of the baby which caused the baby to suffer permanent neurological injury and damage to his brachial plexus nerves.

It is alleged that doctor’s medical negligence caused, Christopher Griffin Jr. to suffer permanent and severe neurological impairment. According to the lawsuit, the child will need lifelong as well as extensive medical care, surgeries, hospitalizations, and treatments.
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In a recent case, the plaintiff claims that the defendant’s chiropractor failed to perform proper tests on the plaintiff to make sure it was safe for them to have cervical manipulations performed on them. The defendant chiropractor in this case denies that they were negligent and claims that all care given to the plaintiff was within the accepted standards.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was under the care of the defendant for chiropractic treatment of the neck and mid and lower back. Throughout the treatment, the defendant performed cervical and lumbar manipulations on the plaintiff. In December during the treatment, the plaintiff’s medical condition was reevaluated by the defendant however, the defendant failed to perform any diagnostic testing on the plaintiff. In February the plaintiff went to the defendant for lower back pain. The defendant had not seen the plaintiff for two months but went ahead and performed cervical and lumbar adjustments. After two weeks, the plaintiff returned for an additional appointment and again had cervical and lumbar procedures performed.

During one appointment in February, one of the manipulations of the cervical spine made an unusually loud crack and caused some discomfort. The following day the plaintiff went to the hospital with a severe headache, facial numbness, and difficulty walking. The plaintiff was then diagnosed with a stroke that the plaintiff claimed was a result of the cervical manipulation. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was negligent when they failed to perform proper testing and examinations to determine if the procedures were safe. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s company was also liable for the actions of their doctor.
The plaintiff suffered gait dysfunction, left vocal cord paralysis, severe hiccups, visual impairment, permanent brain damage, sexual dysfunction and headaches as a result of the stroke. The jury found the defendant not negligent.

People put their trust in medical professionals to make them feel better and to keep them safe from any further injury or harm. However, sometimes some medical professionals may fail to make sure certain procedures or medicines are safe before giving them to patients. This is known as medical malpractice or negligence and can cause serious injury or even death to many patients.
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In Tennessee and all across the country, many people may experience pain or discomfort in their necks and they often seek treatment from a chiropractor for these injuries. As treatment often chiropractors will perform a “neck manipulation or neck neck adjustment” This process often includes “cracking the patients neck”. We have handled chiropractic malpractice cases where we believe this procedure caused a stroke and permanent damage to the patient. There is now additional studies which appears to support the link between chiropractic neck manipulation and a stroke.

Specifically, according to recent reports, over five hundred people have had a stroke after cracking their necks or having neck manipulation. A study that was conducted in the past hints that neck manipulation can cause vertebral arteries connected to the brain to tear causing a stroke. Additional research has discovered that patients who were less than sixty years of age who suffered strokes due to vertebral arteries being torn are six times more likely to have received manipulative therapy in the thirty days prior to the stroke. Other recent research studied thirteen patients who had arterial tears after a couple hours or days after seeing a chiropractor. According to the study, thirty-one percent suffered a permanent disability or even death.

Over an estimated eighteen million people in this country receive care from chiropractors according to a survey conducted in 2007. Wade S. Smith, MD, PhD, lead author of the UCSF study from 2003, stated that, “The incidence of stroke from all causes is only 10 per 100,000, so we’re not talking about large numbers of victims. But rare incidences do happen, and physicians and patients should be aware of spinal manipulation therapy as a rare but potentially causal factor in stroke.”
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A bill introduced in the Tennessee legislature specifically allows hospitals and doctors to provide negligent medical care in Tennessee emergency rooms. Unless a patient could prove gross negligence, a standard just short of criminal behavior, there would be no accountability or protection. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Jack Johnson, both from College Grove.

“For example, if you go to the ER with chest pains and the doctor carelessly misdiagnoses you with bronchitis and you go home and have a massive heart attack and die, under the proposed legislation there is no recourse for this kind of sloppiness,” stated Keith Williams, President, Tennessee Association for Justice. “In effect, a doctor would have no responsibility for careless errors that could ultimately cost you your life.”

The current standard for medical negligence already affords protections to ER doctors. ER doctors are protected as long as they deliver care consistent with standards set by their peers-other ER doctors. Only if they fail to meet those standards and harm a patient will they rightfully be held accountable under the present law.

The people of Tennessee and all across the United States, expect that when they go into the hospital for any kind of treatment or care that they doctors and medical staff will treat them and their family members with the proper medical care and that they will be doing better by the time they leave the hospital. Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case. In a recent lawsuit, Matthew Allen Marlin was born early on June 13, 2009 and suffered irregular breathing and an irregular heart rate. A nurse noticed that he “made a small cry at delivery and had movement of arms and legs.” The baby was considered by this nurse to have been fighting for its life and Dr. John W. O’Donnell III made the decision on his own without first consulting anyone that the baby would have no chance of living. Marlin was then placed in a plastic bin and left on a counter until the family decided what to do with the body. A nurse who was passing by however, noticed the baby was gasping for breath a few hours later.

Marlin then received resuscitation therapy and was transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where he stayed for three months in order to receive specialized care. This lawsuit is claiming that Dr. O’Donnell was negligent and that Marlin suffered a brain injury as well as other injuries due to the doctor’s failure to provide timely and appropriate medical care and treatment. According to the case, a pediatrician should have been called immediately to resuscitate the baby, and the baby should have been sent to a neonatal intensive care unit. The lawsuit seeks undetermined compensatory damages.
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