Many of the families impacted by the fungal meningitis outbreak have started contacting local attorneys who are gearing up to file what could become a class-action lawsuit against the company blamed for those contaminated shots.
The New England Compounding Center is suspected of shipping vials of contaminated lumbar epidural steroid injection medication to clinics in 23 states. The government last week urged doctors not to use any of the company's products.
At least 119 people nationwide who received the injections have contracted a rare, non-contagious form of meningitis, and 11 of them have died. It is suspected the steroid medication may be the cause of their cases.
If a lawsuit is filed against NECC, it would not be the first time legal action has been brought against the pharmacy.
Two Nashville law firms said Tuesday they have fielded a combined two dozen phone calls from potential fungal meningitis victims looking to file claims.
"We have clients who are in the intensive care unit who are in really bad shape," said attorney Randy Kinnard, with Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge.
"A federal suit will be filed. We're working on drafting a complaint now," said attorney Blair Durham, with Durham & Dread, PLC.
Health officials said as many as 13,000 people nationwide may have received the steroid shot suspected in the outbreak, and many patients reportedly paid upwards of $1,000 for the steroid injections that could make them sick or worse.
NECC has fought a legal challenge in the past and eventually settled. In 2004, a New York widow reportedly sued NECC, claiming her husband died after he received a contaminated epidural steroid injection.
Court records obtained by The Tennessean show the case settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of cash.
Durham said that settlement speaks volumes for future lawsuits.
"The fact that they have previously screwed up may play a part in not only their liability but also in the people who gave the shots and used them as a company," Durham said.
The widow in the 2004 case reportedly sued for $2.5 million, but Durham said Midstate families considering a lawsuit may not see that kind of cash.
"For the non-economic damages, there's a cap of $750,000 that families can recover even if their loved one dies," Durham said.
Attorneys said Tuesday what makes this case so unique is the sheer volume of cases that have cropped up in such a short period of time. A typical class-action lawsuit can take years to move forward, but litigation this time could begin in just a few months.
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