It is not every day that a defendant in a lawsuit joins forces with the plaintiff against another defendant, but that is exactly what defendant Virginia Mason Hospital has done. It recently united with the Luvera Law Firm, which represents plaintiff Theresa Bigler, in a quest to hold Olympus America accountable for its part in the hospital-acquired e-coli bacterial infection of 39 Virginia Mason hospital patients, 18 of whom died. The hospital and Bigler believe that by working together they will have a greater chance at effectuating change.
Bigler, whose husband died from an infection he developed when a contaminated medical scope was used for a diagnostic procedure in 2013, filed suit against Virginia Mason and Olympus America, the company that manufactured the scope. The allegedly defective scope was used at Virginia Mason from 2012 to 2014.
After so many patients became ill and some later died after the scope was used for diagnosis and treatment, the hospital discovered that the scopes could not be adequately sanitized using the routine sterilization procedures recommended by Olympus. Both the hospital and Bigler allege that Olympus either knew or should have known about the product defect and failed to warn the hospital about it.
The hospital states that if Olympus had warned it of the sterilization problem, it would have taken precautionary measures. In fact, the hospital still uses the scope, but has instituted unusual and extreme sterilization procedures and after-sterilization testing of the scope before its reuse. Since the implementation of the new protocol, there have been no more infections. If Olympus had initially warned that this sterilization technique was required, the infections and deaths could have been prevented.
John Gagliardi, Bigler’s attorney at the Luvera Law Firm, said that he believes Olympus misled the hospital. He stated that many of the infections and premature deaths “could have been prevented if Olympus had acted responsibly.” Although Virginia Mason is still a defendant in the lawsuit, the hospital filed a cross-claim against Olympus America which is now the primary focus of the Bigler lawsuit.