Motion Filed to Consolidate Lawsuits Over Recalled Injections, Meningitis

As a growing number of lawsuits are being filed by individuals impacted by the nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to epidural steroid injections, a request has been filed to centralize the federal cases as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

A group of plaintiffs who have brought a product liability lawsuits over the fungal meningitis outbreak filed petition with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation on October 16, asking that all complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country be centralized before one judge for coordinated handling during pretrial proceedings.

The petition (PDF) was filed by Brenda and Robert Bansale, who filed one of the first lawsuits against the New England Compounding Center (NECC) over their recalled injections, which have been linked to more than 350 cases of fungal meningitis and other injuries nationwide.

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The request indicates that an additional influx of cases are expected over the coming weeks and months as additional people file lawsuits after being diagnosed with fungal meningitis.

The compounding pharmacy was shut down after an epidural steroid injection recall issued in early October, which involved more than 17,500 vials of potentially contaminated shots distributed to medical providers in at least 23 states. Estimates from health officials indicate that more than 14,000 people may have been exposed to the risk of meningitis or fungal infections from the injections.

25 Dead, More Than 350 Sick

According to the latest update provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 25 people have died and more than 350 have become ill with fungal meningitis after receiving an epidural steroid injection or other medication mixed at the New England Compounding Center.

The recalled steroids were injected directly into patients’ spines for pain relief, and investigations have now confirmed that sealed vials from NECC’s Framingham, Massachusetts facility were contaminated with fungus.

NECC shut down its operations and recalled all of its injection products following the initial recall. It has surrendered its compounding pharmacy license in Massachusetts and had it revoked in Tennessee, the state hardest hit by the outbreak. The company is also facing criminal investigations at the state and federal level in addition to the lawsuits.

If the litigation is centralized as part of an MDL, there are at least four pending lawsuits that will be transferred to one judge for pretrial proceedings. In addition, as other claims are filed by product liability lawyers in federal courts throughout the country, they would also be transferred to the same judge for coordination.

Such consolidation is common in complex product liability claims where a large number of lawsuits have been filed against a limited number of defendants over the same or similar products. Plaintiffs indicate that consolidating the litigation over the fungal meningitis outbreak would prevent duplicate discovery and contradictory rulings and would serve the convenience of all parties involved.

Outbreak Linked to Mold Found in Injections

Fungal meningitis is a type of meningitis that in this case was caused by at least two different types of mold that somehow tainted vials of the epidural injections. It causes inflammation of the spinal cord and protective membranes covering the brain. The inflammation generally causes an infection of the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord and can also be caused by parasites, viruses and bacterial infection.

Individuals with a weakened immune system may be at a particularly high risk of contracting fungal meningitis.

Symptoms of meningitis following an epidural steroid injection may include fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and mental confusion. Signs of meningitis usually develop within three to seven days after exposure. As the disease progresses, symptoms may become severe, resulting in seizures, coma and death.


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