Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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October 31, 2012

Lawsuit filed by Goshen attorney for local meningitis death

GOSHEN — A wrongful-death lawsuit linked to a recent meningitis outbreak was filed in Elkhart County Superior Court No. 1 Tuesday.  

According to the Goshen attorney representing the plaintiff, it’s believed to be the first wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Indiana relating to complications of fungal meningitis caused by a contaminated steroid injection.

The complaint, brought by the widow of Daniel Rohrer, 68, of Bristol and the Estate of Daniel Rohrer, was filed against New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc., also known as New England Compounding Center, and its sister companies and subsidiaries, Ameridose LLC and Alaunus Pharmaceutical LLC, as well as the owners and officers of these companies.

The complaint was filed by attorney Richard W. Crowder of Goshen for damages, including but not limited to: last medical expenses, burial expenses, lost income, loss of love and services and loss of consortium and punitive damages.

“My clients, the family of Daniel Rohrer, are seeking answers as to why and how these injectable steroids, namely  preservative-free Methylprednisolone acetate, were allowed to be marketed and placed into the stream of commerce and then given to patients in this dangerous and defective condition,” Crowder said. “The Rohrer family wants someone held accountable for their husband/father’s death.”

The attorney said the Rohrer family is having a difficult time adjusting and Daniel’s passing.

“Daniel and Diana spent their whole life together and had been married for 43 years,” Crowder said. “Daniel and Diana had their own lawn care business and worked together. It is going to be difficult to adapt to their life without Daniel.”  

According to Crowder, Rohrer’s death on Oct. 23 was considered the 25th death case nationwide and the third death related to the fungal meningitis outbreak in Indiana. As of Wednesday, there were believed to be 28 deaths nationwide. Indiana now has 48 cases of fungal meningitis linked to injections of a recalled back pain medication.

Health officials said Wednesday that there were three deaths from the disease linked to Indiana. Elkhart County’s health officer has said all three deaths are linked to the county.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the count on its website Wednesday.

The Indiana State Department of Health has said six Indiana clinics received the tainted steroids, including the OSMC Outpatient Surgery Center in Elkhart. The tainted medication also went to clinics in Columbus, Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute.

The tainted steroids have been traced to the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass.

Crowder said several state and federal authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, as well as Massachusetts and Indiana state officials, have taken actions against the New England Compounding Center.

On Friday, the Indiana Attorney General filed a Petition for Summary Suspension before the Indiana Board of Pharmacy against New England Compounding Center, seeking to suspend its license in accordance with Indiana law. The petition states that, as a licensed non-resident pharmacy, NECC is legally responsible for the “proper and safe storage and distribution of drugs and devices.”

According to Crowder, the petition states that NECC represents a clear and immediate danger to the public health and safety if it is allowed to continue to practice as a non-resident pharmacy in Indiana.

Ameridose issued a recall of all of its products Wednesday, Crowder said.

Crowder indicated that due to the number of people exposed and confirmed cases diagnosed with fungal meningitis as well as the number of complaints that have been filed in both state and federal courts, this matter may end up in a multi-district litigation and possibly even in a class-action lawsuit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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