Man sues over contaminated sutures

By John O'Brien | Apr 11, 2006

CHARLESTON - A man who claims he suffered infection from contaminated sutures is suing those who manufactured and distributed them.

Randall Matt Legg says in a lawsuit filed April 3 in Kanawha Circuit Court that the sutures used in his Oct. 1998 foot surgery caused him serious infection.

"Plaintiff was injured by contaminated Vicryl sutures designed and sold by Ethicon, Inc., and Johnson and Johnson," the complaint says. "Defendants are the largest manufacturers of medical sutures, producing in excess of 80 percent of all sutures used in this country."

Ethicon is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson and are listed as the manufacturer defendants. Also being sued are these distributor defendants: Charleston Area Medical Center, Johnson and Johnson Hospital Services Corporation, Johnson and Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc., Skyland Hospital Supply, Amerisource Medical Supply, Inc., and Amerisource Corporation.

"Manufacturer defendants knew, or had reason to know, that they were producing and distributing contaminated sutures, yet they took no steps to withhold the sutures or to warn either the medical community or the general public of the potential hazard," the complaint says. "Only after the (Food and Drug Administration) threatened to take action did manufacturer defendants take steps to mitigate the danger."

Legg says Ethicon issued a recall of at least 3.6 million packages of sutures in Sept. 1994. He also alleges that Ethicon began a new process of sterilization afterwards, but the company eventually found a breach of sterile conditions but did not order a recall on the new sutures.

Legg is represented by John R. Mitchell and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Judge Paul Zakaib has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-614

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