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Meningitis outbreak: Fourth suit filed against outpatient center

On Behalf of | May 29, 2013 | Fungal Meningitis

May 6, 2013.

An 86-year-old Nashville woman has become the fourth victim of the fungal meningitis outbreak to file suit against Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center and the Howell Allen Clinic.

In a 29-page complaint filed late last week in Davidson County Circuit Court, attorneys for Virginia Neely charged that she was sickened after getting two injections of a tainted spinal steroid at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center.

According to the complaint, she was referred to the outpatient center by Dr. Everette Howell of Howell Allen, the 50 percent owner of the neurosurgical center.

Also named as defendants in the case are Saint Thomas Hospital, Saint Thomas Health and Saint Thomas Network, which owns the other half of the neurosurgical center.

Neely previously filed suit against the New England Compounding Center, the company blamed by state and federal regulators for shipping fungus-infested vials of methylprednisolone acetate to health facilities across the country.

That suit, however, has been put on hold because NECC filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Massachusetts.

The nationwide outbreak has sickened 733 people, including 152 in Tennessee. Fourteen patients treated in Tennessee have died.

According to the new complaint, Neely was injected with steroids on June 22 and July 12 of last year.

She later reported having severe back pain at the site of the injections and was subsequently diagnosed with fungal meningitis and an abscess at the injection site.

“She has remained on the anti-fungal medications for the months of December, January, February and March of 2013,” the complaint states, adding that “she continues to live under a threat that she may suffer reoccurrence of the spinal abscess.”

The suit accuses the defendants of negligence and charges that they failed to properly investigate NECC before purchasing drugs from the firm. The suit also charges that the clinic violated the state product liability statute.

“Virginia Neely played no role in selecting the supplier of the steroids,” the suit states, adding that the clinic purchased from NECC “because it was less expensive than safe commercially available alternatives.”

Neely’s suit is expected to be sent to presiding Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr., who is handling the three previously filed suits. She is seeking $3 million in compensatory damages.


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