Two state residents sue over illegally obtained body parts

By John O'Brien | Mar 29, 2006

CHARLESTON - Two West Virginians have filed lawsuits against several companies involved in the distribution of body parts that were allegedly obtained illegally by New Jersey-based company.

David Ramella and Jami Frazier say in separate lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court they received parts through transplants obtained by Biomedical Tissue Services, Inc., that were not tested for disease.

"Upon information and belief, prior to November 2005, Defendant BTS entered into an illicitly designed and organized commercial enterprise with various funeral homes to harvest and extract from corpses various human bone, skin, tendons and other human tissue," each complaint says.

"Upon information and belief, the various human bone, skin, tendons and other human tissue illicitly extracted by Defendant BTS was never properly screened, tested, processed or evaluated for certain infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and other viral infections."

James C. Patterson of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee and Dietzler is heading each lawsuit, both filed March 17.

The suits name Regeneration Technologies, Inc.; Spinalgraft technologies, LLC; Medtronic, Inc.; Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc.; Medtronic Sofamor Danek, U.S.A., Inc.; Tutogen Medical, Inc.; Lifecell Corporation; Lost Mountain Tissue bank; and the Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas as defendants.

Those companies are charged with distributing, selling and supplying the human tissue harvested by Biomedical Tissue Services from early 2003-September 2005.

Ramella, of Daniels, underwent spinal surgery in 2004 at Charleston Area Medical Center and received allegedly stolen bone paste. Frazier, of Waverly, had a backbone transplant in 2004 at Parkersburg's Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital.

The Food and Drug Administration started an investigation into Biomedical Tissue Services on Oct. 26 and stated "because of the potential lack of proper screening of the tissue donors, some recipients of the tissues may be at increased risk of infections that could potential be transmitted through tissues."

The defendants were then required to recall all unused tissue remaining in inventory and notify implanting physicians of the risk of infectious disease among patients that may have received such products.

Upon being notified, the plaintiffs have undergone testing for infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and syphilis.

The plaintiffs charge the defendants with battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, medical monitoring - claims members, punitive damages, violation of 42 U.S.C.A ., product liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, negligence and fraud.

The case may eventually turn into a class-action lawsuit.

"Defendants' actions and omissions were malicious, reckless, wanton, intentional and/or made with a conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of Plaintiff(s) and the Class and Defendants are therefore liable for punitive and exemplary damages and attorneys' fees," the complaint says.

U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia case numbers 6:06-00198 and 2:06-00197

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