More fungal meningitis-related lawsuits to be filed

A South Bend attorney has mailed five more lawsuits related to fungal meningitis to Elkhart County Superior Court 1.

Posted on Nov. 19, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 19, 2012 at 5:14 p.m.

ELKHART — A South Bend law firm that is already representing at least five patients who were exposed to contaminated medications in Elkhart County is filing more lawsuits.

Attorney Doug Small, of Foley and Small, mailed five new complaints Monday to Elkhart County Superior Court 1. His clients received tainted back pain injections linked to a fungal meningitis outbreak that has spread to 19 states. Among the 480 cases of the infection confirmed nationwide, there have been 55 cases reported in Indiana, including five deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Small filed complaints in October on behalf of five people who contracted fungal meningitis after being treated for back pain at OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart. They are seeking unspecified damages to cover medical costs and loss of pay from their jobs. The lawsuits name the New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts-based drug manufacturer, and its owners. OSMC has not been named in any lawsuits.

The new set of lawsuits will be filed on behalf of OSMC patients Rita Geisler, John Pavlekovich, Mary Lambert and Mary Ginther, and South Bend Clinic patient Kristi Oblinger. All five were hospitalized with fungal meningitis, Small said.

More than half of the people in Indiana impacted by the outbreak are Elkhart County residents, according to county health officer Dr. Dan Nafziger. Two Elkhart County residents and a Michigan woman who was treated at OSMC died after being diagnosed with fungal meningitis.

Two of Small’s clients have died from complications related to the infection. Jack Durben, 83, of Edwardsburg, Mich., died Nov. 10, and Viola Copsey, 87, of Constantine, Mich., died early Monday morning, Small said. Copsey was among the first group of Small’s clients to file suit against the New England Compounding Center. Small said he will be amending the two lawsuits to become wrongful death cases.

The first wrongful death suit in Indiana related to fungal meningitis was filed by the family of Daniel Rohrer, who was the third person in Indiana to die from the infection. Rohrer’s family, represented by Goshen attorney Richard Crowder, sued the pharmaceutical company at the end of October. Nathan Owen Tacy, of Elkhart, also filed suit in October against the drug manufacturer and two affiliated companies.

Small said he plans to file more complaints on behalf of a dozen other clients within the next two weeks.

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