Widow of McMinnville meningitis victim files lawsuit - WSMV News 4

Widow of McMinnville meningitis victim files lawsuit

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As the number of meningitis cases continues to climb, so do the number of lawsuits.

The latest involves a Warren County family and a "now familiar" series of events.

Margaret Bryant lived in McMinnville for decades.

She was a loving wife of 42 years, a member of the Church of Christ and a cancer survivor.

It was back pain - and medicine that should have helped - that cost her life.

Tonight, her death could cost the company responsible millions.

"She's been married 42 years," said Galligan. "She loved animals."

"She lived the last two weeks of her life in terrible pain with the symptoms that have been reported in others."

Bryant traveled from McMinnville to Nashville this summer hoping epidural steroid injections at St. Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center might bring relief for back pain.

Instead, symptoms soon started and caused her death.

"Within about a week and half or two weeks, she developed the symptoms," said Galligan. "Neck pain, terrible headache, back pain and numbness."

"It's a shame that a company like NECC - out of their greed - from their attention to detail, just totally devastated a family and took a person's life."

Galligan filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bryant's widower against New England Compounding Center. He wants a judge and jury to award $50 million in damages.

"That is an expression of the pain my client feels," said Galligan.

As of today, the company recalled all of its medications but has not admitted a mistake.

Monday, Food and Drug Administration investigators discovered a third type of fungus in supposedly sterile NECC medicine, easily more fuel for those hoping a lawsuit could bring a small degree of closure.

"It's rarely the money that's important," said Galligan. "It's a sense of justice. We don't do an arm for an arm, or a leg for a leg in this country. All you can do is sue."

NECC could soon file for bankruptcy with the number of liability lawsuits piling up against them.

That could impact lawsuits like this one, especially if the company's insurance doesn't cover everything.

"Should all of that run out, should they not have assets and if they're declared insolvent, at that point, the lawsuit would probably shift to the wholesalers and the end users," said Galligan.

That could potentially mean providers, like St. Thomas, ultimately might have to pay. That was not Galligan's intent, but it could be the side effect of a complicated search for closure.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it seemed confident a vast majority of impacted patients - 97 percent - know they could be at risk. The work to notify everyone and to understand the source of the outbreak continues.

The FDA confirmed it found a third type of fungus in unopened vials that originated at NECC.

The company shipped about 14,000 vials to facilities in Tennessee and 23 states this summer.

Since the outbreak sparked several weeks ago, the company voluntarily recalled all of its products.

Federal authorities went one step further, though, urging doctors to follow up with every patient who had any NECC medicine, especially those in eye or heart surgeries.

The company, based in Massachusetts, should have been making patient and prescription-specific medication. It did not have a license to mass produce drugs. Since the outbreak, that became the center of investigations and lawsuits.

As of Monday afternoon, the CDC confirms 297 cases of fungal meningitis in 16 states along with 23 deaths. In Tennessee, 69 cases and nine deaths have been reported.

Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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