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Meningitis outbreak: Products liability or medical malpractice?

Earlier we posted about the meningitis outbreak in Tennessee and around the country. So far 23 people have died from the very rare form of meningitis. Another 300 have been infected and the estimation is that as many as 14,000 people were exposed to the infection through tainted steroid injections.

Lawsuits have already been filed against many of the clinics and doctors who administered the shots. Going forward, the big question is going to be whether these lawsuits fall under products liability or medical malpractice.

The courts may go either way. If the injections are considered products that were sold, the lawsuits could fall under products liability. This would involve looking at patients' medical bills. If there is a separate bill for the steroid injection, the argument could be it was a product that was bought and sold.

But, if the courts determine the injections were a service, then the claim may fall under medical malpractice.

Of course, some may claim both product liability and medical malpractice with the hopes that at least one of the claims sticks. These lawsuits, which have already been filed against physicians and hospitals, may also end up being brought against distributors, suppliers and compounders.

Lawsuits have already been filed against the New England Compounding Center, which is where the shots have been linked to. These lawsuits are against not only the drug-mixing pharmacy, but also against some of the executives of the company.

These lawsuits may also seek compensatory and punitive damages. The compensatory damages are typically meant to cover things like medical expenses tied to the outbreak, while the punitive damages are usually sought in order to hold those responsible accountable for their negligence and wrongdoing.


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