A Vancouver man whose 53-year-old wife died in 2013 of a severe and unexpected infection is suing Virginia Mason Medical Center and the maker of allegedly defective medical scopes tied to “superbug” outbreaks in Seattle and across the nation.

Share story

A Vancouver, Wash., man whose wife died of a severe infection is suing Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center and the maker of allegedly defective medical scopes tied to so-called “superbug” outbreaks locally and nationwide.

Allen Miller, 55, claims in a lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court that his wife, Lisa Miller, died in July 2013 as a result of acute necrotizing pancreatitis caused by a contaminated duodenoscope made by Olympus America Inc.

The 53-year-old mother of two, a former health worker and landscaper, went to Virginia Mason for a routine outpatient procedure to treat recurrent pancreatitis in June 2013. A little more than a month later, she was treated at a Vancouver hospital for multi-organ failure caused by the severe infection, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit does not claim a specific “superbug” bacteria is responsible for Lisa Miller’s infection. Miller’s lawyer, Karen Koehler of Seattle law firm Stritmatter Kessler Whelan said an investigation is continuing.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The suit indicates that Allen Miller decided to pursue legal action after reading Seattle Times news reports about an outbreak of multidrug-resistant infections at Virginia Mason tied to contaminated Olympus TJF-Q180V scopes. The infections were transmitted even after the scopes were cleaned according to manufacturers’ directions, the investigations showed.

Thirty-two people were infected in that outbreak between 2012 and 2014, health officials have said. Eleven died, but it’s not clear whether the infections contributed to their deaths. Unlike Lisa Miller, many of those patients had pancreatic cancer or other terminal illnesses.

Virginia Mason officials, acting on the advice of local and federal health officials, did not initially inform patients or their families about the outbreak tied to procedures known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.

Virginia Mason officials later decided to inform all patients and their families if they’d been affected by the outbreak. Miller received no call saying is wife was among the outbreak cases, Koehler said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Olympus, claiming the company knew its cleaning instructions for duodenoscopes were “ineffective and had resulted in severe infections and death.” The scopes’ design and cleaning protocols have been cited as the potential cause of “superbug” outbreaks in several states.

The complaint seeks damages from Virginia Mason for not notifying families and for failing to report the outbreak infections to state health officials as required.

In addition to Allen Miller, the lawsuit seeks compensation on behalf of the couple’s 29-year-old son, and daughter, 20, a student at Washington State University.

This is the third local lawsuit connected to the Virginia Mason outbreak.