Olympus (TYO:7733) reportedly eked out a partial win yesterday, despite losing a nearly $7 million verdict over the tainted endoscopes implicated in a “superbug” outbreak at a Seattle medical center in which 18 patients died.
Theresa Bigler sued the hospital and Olympus in March 2015; in a twist, Virginia Mason joined Bigler’s suit against Olympus, claiming that the company put patients’ lives at risk by failing to disclose design flaws. The Bigler case was one of dozens of “superbug” infections connected to duodenoscopes that could harbor deadly pathogens such as E. coli, the infection found to have contributed to Bigler’s death.
Thirty-nine people were infected at the Virginia Mason Medical Center between 2012 and 2014; 18 eventually died. All were critically ill when they were infected, but it was unclear if the bacterial infection contributed to their deaths, Seattle public health officials said at the time. Four patients in March 2015 were infected with bacteria from a contaminated scope and 67 more were at risk at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, weeks after UCLA Ronald Reagan hospital reported 8 patients were similarly infected and scores more potentially exposed; 3 of the UCLA patients eventually died.
Yesterday, a King County Superior Court jury in Washington decided yesterday that Olympus must pay $6.6 million to Virginia Mason Medical Center, where Richard Bigler died in 2013 after contracting an infection from a contaminated duodenoscope. The also ordered the hospital to pay $1 million to Bigler’s family, but rejected claims that the Olympus device was unsafe as designed, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Although the 12-member jury, which began deliberating July 18, said the damages to Virginia Mason amounted to $25.4 million, jurors agreed the hospital had been negligent and thus drastically cut its damages award, according to the report.
“We are appreciative that the jury recognized that Olympus’ duodenoscope design was not unsafe and did not contribute to Mr. Bigler’s unfortunate passing in 2013,” Olympus lawyer Sam Tarry told the newspaper.
“Olympus hasn’t been playing by the rules for some time and this verdict holds them accountable,” added Bigler attorney David Beninger, noting that Olympus and other device manufacturers “must make patient safety a priority and not just a sales pitch.”
“As Olympus’ own expert admitted at trial, lawsuits can change behavior and big lawsuits can make big changes. Hopefully this verdict will convince Olympus and others to listen,” he said, according to the paper.
“We’re sorry for the grief and anguish experienced by the Bigler family,” Virginia Mason Medical Center said in a brief statement, according to the Times. “This was a complicated trial that lasted more than eight weeks. The verdict includes multiple decisions and we will continue reviewing them over the next few days.”