Fungal Meningitis Infections Caused by Tainted Steroids
June 12, 2013
Just last Sunday 60 Minutes did a segment on the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis caused by tainted steroid medication from the New England Compounding Center. I believe they reported 40 deaths to date and hundreds or thousands of innocent victims suffering from the effects of these infections.In most cases when an injured person sues or makes a claim for negligence they need to prove that the other party was, in fact, negligent and that negligence was the cause of the injury. The rules change a bit when suing the manufacturer of a product. Most states, including Minnesota, have adopted a legal principle called "strict liability in tort". When an injured consumer sues a manufacturer under this theory of liability they do not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. All that has to be shown is that the product was in an unreasonably dangerous condition when it reached the end user. In the case of NECC that is a foregone conclusion.
So, it would appear that these cases would be a slamdunk winner for the injured person for compensatory damages. There remains the question of punitive damages, i.e., damages beyond what it takes to compensate the injured person to punish the defendant for (in Minnesota) willful conduct which evidences conscious disregard for the safety of the consumer. That may be a more difficult hurdle to overcome, although the 60 Minutes segment strongly hinted that such evidence is readily available. If that is the case, it raises the next issue which would be collectibility, i.e., with as many injuries and death says there are, would the assets of NECC be enough to cover the awards of punitive damages likely to be handed down by juries.
And this raises another question, in the workers compensation arena. If an injured person required these injections as treatment for a work-related injury, and as a result of the injections developed a fungal infection and/or was killed as a result of the infection, with the workers compensation insurance company be liable for those additional damages? Questions like that should be addressed to a competent workers compensation attorney. In this part of the state I would recommend you contact the attorneys at Tom Mottaz office, www.mottazlaw.com.