Tragic Death Demonstrates Danger of Unsafe Medical Products

The sad death of a 2-year-old who acquired bacterial meningitis from recalled alcohol pads used in a hospital shows the danger of defective medical products. People who have suffered harm from unsafe medical devices or the families of people fatally injured by defective medical devices may have legal claims against the manufacturers and suppliers of the products in products liability lawsuits.

Toddler Dies After Meningitis Infection

Houston 2-year-old Harrison Kothari was in the hospital recovering from surgery to remove a benign cyst near his brain and spine. The day before he was scheduled to go home, he suddenly acquired a severe infection. The infection, meningitis caused by the Bacillus cereus bacteria, caused multiple-organ failure, leading to young Harrison's death.

Harrison's family accidently discovered the likely cause of the infection when a relative saw a recall notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Perhaps millions of alcohol swabs and pads were being recalled by Triad Group, a medical product supplier in Wisconsin, and the FDA. The recall was initiated because of potential contamination with Bacillus cereus, the bacteria that caused Harrison's death.

Alcohol-Pad Recall

On January 5, 2011, Triad Group issued a voluntary notice recalling all lots of alcohol pads, wipes, swabs and other alcohol products supplied by the company. The notice said the recall resulted from "an abundance of caution," but it also stated that using contaminated pads could lead to life-threatening infections, especially among surgical patients.


According to the National Institutes of Health, meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection that gets better without medical treatment. However, meningitis caused instead by a bacterial infection is extremely serious and may result in death, even when treated.

The National Meningitis Association reports that an average of 1,500 people were diagnosed with meningitis every year from 1998 to 2007 in the U.S. Of those who acquired meningitis, 11 percent died of the illness. Of the survivors, about 20 percent suffer long-term side effects that include:

  • Brain damage
  • Limb amputation
  • Hearing loss
  • Kidney disease

Negligence and Medical Products

All medical-product manufacturers and suppliers are responsible for producing safe devices. If someone is harmed by a medical product because it was designed or produced in an unsafe manner, the injured person may have a legal claim for negligence against the manufacturer or supplier in a products liability lawsuit.

If a judge or jury determines that a manufacturer's or supplier's negligence created the unsafe product, the injured person may receive damages. Generally, damages may include monetary compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

Under the negligence legal theory, Harrison's family sued Triad Group. The family's lawsuit claims that the company committed negligence in supplying alcohol pads that may have contained a potentially life-threatening bacteria. Similar negligence and products liability lawsuits have been filed over other defective medical products, including Johnson & Johnson's defective DePuy hip implants.

Defective DePuy Hip Implants

In August 2010, Johnson & Johnson recalled its ASR hip-replacement products made by its subsidiary DePuy. The FDA had received about 400 complaints from hip-replacement patients since 2008, and a number of products liability lawsuits had been filed against Johnson & Johnson by patients with ASR implants.

The DePuy ASR hip implant's failure rate is about 12 percent within five years of implantation, and the rate of problems is expected to increase the longer the implant is in place. Therefore, patients with the hip implants must undergo testing and monitoring for the rest of their lives to make sure that their implants are still functioning properly.

Hip-implant failure may cause pain, limitation of daily activities and even the inability to work. Patients with failed ASR hip implants have reported hip pain and stiffness as well as difficulty walking, standing or sitting for long periods of time. Sometimes another hip surgery is necessary to replace the defective product.

The problems caused by defective medical products can be severe and even life-threatening. If you or a loved one has suffered harm from a medical product or device, contact an attorney with experience in defective products cases to discuss any legal claims you may have.

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