An Olympus Corp. subsidiary has been sued again in a Pennsylvania state court. It’s alleged that a surgical device it manufactures was responsible for the spread of cancer-causing cells. This is the third such lawsuit to be filed. Marlene and Joel Waltman, who filed suit, became the latest Plaintiffs to claim that the medical device and electronics manufacturer should have been aware of the cancer risks associated with its so-called PKS PlasmaSORD Bipolar Morcellator before it was used in a July 2011 surgical procedure.
The latest suit alleges that use of the device during a gynecological procedure aimed at removing what were thought to be benign tumors from Marlene Waltman actually ended up spreading and seeding cancerous cells throughout her abdomen. The complaint said:
The PKS PlasmaSORD Bipolar Morcellator disseminated and seeded cancer throughout plaintiff’s abdominal cavity, thereby causing and accelerating the metastases and spread of her cancer, worsening the long-term prognosis and the natural course of her cancer. The spread of the life-threatening cancer suffered by the plaintiff was a direct result of the use of the PKS PlasmaSORD Bipolar Morcellator during her 2011 surgical procedure.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning in November that laparoscopic power morcellators, gynecological tools used to perform hysterectomy or uterine fibroid removal, should not be used in surgery that involves cancer or fibroids. The agency said that uterine tissue may contain unsuspected cancer and that using the morcellators may spread the cancer and decrease long-term patient survival. The Waltmans said that there were studies in medical journals as early as the 1990s reporting on the risk of spreading undetected cancer through the use of the devices, and that Olympus “knew or should have known that their laparoscopic power morcellators could cause malignant tissue fragments to be disseminated and implanted in the body.”
The Waltmans countered in their complaint that a two-year statute of limitations on their claim should be tolled because they had only recently learned of the connection between her cancer and use of the medical devices. It’s alleged in the complaint:
Despite diligent investigation by plaintiffs into the cause of her injuries, including consultations with plaintiff’s medical providers, the nature of plaintiffs’ injuries and damages, and their relationship to PKS PlasmaSORD Bipolar Morcellator, was not discovered, and through reasonable care and due diligence could not have been discovered, until a date shortly prior to the filing of plaintiffs’ claims.
Claims of negligence, fraud and design-defect are included in the complaint and both compensatory and punitive damages are sought in the case. Two other nearly identical suits were filed against Olympus in Philadelphia County in May on behalf of two other women, Betty Dobson and Anita Whittaker, who say they developed cancer after they were operated on using the device in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
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