Five more lawsuits filed in meningitis outbreak

Five more lawsuits have been filed in Elkhart County against a pharmaceutical company after a group of people contracted fungal meningitis.

Posted on Oct. 26, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — A South Bend law firm has filed five lawsuits on behalf of patients who contracted fungal meningitis after receiving tainted medications at OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart.

The five complaints are against the New England Compounding Center, a drug manufacturer in Framingham, Mass., as well as the pharmaceutical company’s operators — pharmacists Barry and Lisa Cadden and company president Gregory Conigliaro. OSMC was not named in the lawsuit.

The law firm of Foley and Small filed suit Thursday in Elkhart Superior Court 1 in Elkhart on behalf of clients Richard Tallman, Viola Copsey, JoAnn and Richard Schrock, Karen Wyres and Tracy Klemm for her daughter, Karissa Klemm. Personal injury attorney Douglas Small said his clients have been discharged from the hospital and are continuing their recovery at home with regular blood tests and monitoring for further meningitis symptoms.

“They’re all dealing with anxiety because of not knowing what is going to happen,” Small said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 43 people in Indiana have been diagnosed with the potentially deadly infection, including 29 people in Elkhart County. Three deaths have been reported in Indiana, all linked to Elkhart County. There have been 328 cases of the infection confirmed in 18 states, with 24 deaths nationwide.

Another Elkhart man, who is being treated for fungal meningitis, filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company and two of its affiliates on Oct. 15.

The new lawsuits refer to inspections conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that revealed unsanitary conditions at the pharmacy. Among other complaints, the lawsuits also claim that the drug manufacturer failed to comply with proper procedures for testing the medications to ensure safety of the product, which was distributed to about 75 clinics in 23 states.

The plaintiffs further charge that the New England Compounding Center operated illegally by preparing and selling injections as a mass pharmaceutical producer and seller. Small noted that the company was licensed in Massachusetts as a compounding center, which limits sale of medications to individual patients by prescription only.

Small’s clients are seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages to cover medical expenses and loss of pay from their jobs.

Small and Foley plans to file more cases within the next week in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.

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