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Lawyer says more 'superbug' lawsuits coming

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is seen on October 9, 2008 in Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

In the wake of two lawsuits filed against the company that makes the medical device implicated in the "superbug" outbreak at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in both cases tells KPCC that he expects to file four to six more cases in the next week —three of which will be wrongful death suits.

The suits filed so far — and those in the works — target the Olympus Corp. of the Americas, which makes the Q180V Duodenoscope, and its endoscopy sales group, says Peter Kaufman, the attorney who has filed the current cases and is preparing the new ones.

The lawsuits stem from the "superbug" outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, at the UCLA Medical Center. The hospital says seven people were infected with CRE between Oct. 3 and Jan. 28, and that the infection contributed to the deaths of two of those patients. It estimates that close to 180 more may have been infected. 

The patients in the three upcoming wrongful death suits "were exposed to the scopes...they had tests done, and the presence of the CRE infection was detected, and then they died," Kaufman tells KPCC. 

He says he may include UCLA as a defendant in the suits.

The first suit, filed on Monday on behalf of 18-year-old Aaron Young, alleges that he became infected with CRE after being exposed to a contaminated duodenoscope at UCLA in October and again in January. Young is still hospitalized with the infection, according to Kaufman.

The second suit, filed Wednesday, sued Olympus for wrongful death on behalf of 48-year-old Antonia Torres Cerda. According to the complaint, Cerda died Nov. 8 after being exposed to a contaminated scope at UCLA in October.

Both suits allege that Olympus failed to fulfill its responsibility to provide a proven cleaning method for its scope. The suit filed by Cerda's family also accuses the company of negligence and fraud in selling and marketing a "defective" scope.

Citing patient confidentiality, UCLA has not said whether Cerda and Young were among those infected in the CRE outbreak.

Olympus has not commented so far on the Young and Cerda lawsuits.