The jury ordered Olympus to pay $6.6 million to Virginia Mason Medical Center, a hospital in Seattle where 39 people were infected on contaminated duodenoscopes from 2012 to 2014. All of the patients were critically ill and 18 died after being infected.
Olympus is facing over 25 lawsuits on behalf of victims nationwide. The $6.6 million verdict involved Richard Bigler, a man who died in 2013 after he was infected with a deadly “superbug” on a contaminated TJF-Q180V duodenoscope.
The jury also ordered Virginia Mason to pay $1 million to Mr. Bigler’s widow, Theresa Bigler, and their four children.
The jury decided that Olympus did not provide Virginia Mason with adequate instructions on how to sterilize the duodenoscope, or warnings about potential safety issues related to contamination.
However, the jury did not believe the scope was defectively designed. According Sam Tarry, an attorney for Olympus:
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.”
The outbreak at Virginia Mason involved a “superbug” known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which is hard to treat because it has a high level of antibiotic resistance.
At least 35 patients in U.S. hospitals have died from infections that were transmitted on Olympus TJF-Q180V duodenoscopes. The scope was recalled in January 2016 to update instructions for sterilization.
Olympus also fixed design flaws by tightening a seal around a complex mechanism on the tip of the scope to prevent patient body fluids from leaking inside. The scope is extremely difficult to sterilize when fluids leak inside, which poses an infection risk to subsequent patients exposed to the scope.
In January 2016, a Senate investigation determined that Olympus knew that design flaws could lead to infection outbreaks in 2012, but did not warn the FDA or hospitals about the risk until February 2015.