The maker of medical scopes blamed for spreading dozens of “superbug” infections at Virginia Mason Medical Center claims the hospital failed to use and clean the device properly.
The maker of medical scopes blamed for spreading dozens of drug-resistant “superbug” infections at Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) has fired back, saying in a lawsuit its devices aren’t responsible for death or damages.
Olympus America filed a cross-claim late Monday in King County Superior Court against Virginia Mason. The hospital last month joined a lawsuit filed by the widow of a Seattle-area man who died in 2013 of a massive infection after being treated with an allegedly contaminated scope.
Olympus said in the countersuit that Virginia Mason failed to use and clean the device properly and that the hospital damaged the company’s reputation with claims that the firm’s duodenoscope could not be properly cleaned.
“VMMC negligently failed to follow the instructions, training and warnings for the use and processing of the TJF-Q180V duodenoscope,” the lawsuit stated.
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In addition, the firm claimed Virginia Mason was “entirely at fault” for the death of Richard Bigler, 57, of Woodway, who had pancreatic cancer and died after becoming infected with a drug-resistant E. coli infection allegedly linked to the scope.
At least 39 people developed multidrug-resistant infections between 2012 and 2014 that local and federal investigators said were tied to dangerous bacteria that remained on the devices even after they were cleaned as directed.
Eighteen of those people have died, though any role the infections may have played is not clear, hospital officials have said.
Theresa Bigler, Richard Bigler’s widow, had sued Virginia Mason and Olympus in March, seeking damages for what she said was the wrongful death of her husband. Virginia Mason officials later filed a cross-claim against Olympus as an answer to that lawsuit.
Hospital officials said they stopped the outbreak after spending more than $1 million to implement a culture-and-quarantine protocol that holds the duodenoscopes until they test free of bacteria.
Outbreaks linked to the scopes have been detected around the country, including recent cases in Los Angeles, Chicago and Hartford, Conn. Across the U.S., duodenoscopes from Olympus and two other device-makers have been linked to 142 multidrug-resistant infections in patients since 2010, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Richard Bigler and other patients underwent procedures known as ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholagniopancreatography, which diagnoses and treats problems with bile and pancreatic ducts.
Rando Wick, a lawyer representing Virginia Mason, said doctors at Virginia Mason have provided expert guidance to public-health agencies and other hospitals hoping to stop the spread of infections by tainted devices.
“VMMC has taken new steps beyond the Olympus guidelines to clean the device in the interests of patient safety,” Wick wrote.
Dr. Andrew Ross, Virginia Mason’s section head of gastroenterology, spoke last month at a FDA panel focused on solving the problem.
Department of Justice officials issued a subpoena to Olympus in March, seeking information about the duodenoscopes, according to financial documents filed last month.