California Court Orders Coordination of a Growing Number of Cases Alleging Blindness and Other Serious Injuries
(Santa Ana, CA) December 13, 2007 — Twenty more products liability lawsuits* were filed this week against contact lens solution maker Advanced Medical Optics, Inc. in California state courts in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The plaintiffs reside in California as well as numerous other states throughout the country. The lawsuits seek compensatory and punitive damages for serious injuries that the plaintiffs allege were caused by AMO’s Complete® brand of contact lens disinfectant solutions.
Complete® MoisturePlus™ multipurpose solution was voluntarily recalled by AMO on May 25 at the request of the Food & Drug Administration after the Centers for Disease Control linked the solution to an outbreak of serious corneal infections known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. The plaintiffs contend that AMO knew that its solution was ineffective against the organism that causes the infection, and even changed the formula in a way that actually increased the likelihood of contracting the disease, yet failed to warn consumers about the risk.
The new lawsuits add to numerous cases previously filed in California and other states. There are presently at least 48 separate lawsuits involving over 80 individual plaintiffs pending against AMO in connection with its recalled solution, including several class actions. “We anticipate that there will be many more cases filed as lawyers continue to evaluate the medical records of potential claimants,” said Mark Robinson of Robinson Calcagnie & Robinson in Newport Beach, California, one of three firms representing the new plaintiffs. Acanthamoeba keratitis is caused by contamination of contact lenses and lens cases with a common amoeba. It is often mistaken by doctors for viral or bacterial infections, but is more difficult to diagnose and treat, and is associated with a high rate of permanent vision loss and the need for corneal transplant surgery. “These are just horrific injuries,” added Robinson, who said that a number of cases involve children, including four of the newly filed lawsuits.
Four of the new lawsuits were brought by individuals who unwittingly used the product after it was recalled by AMO. “We have a growing number of clients who were never told about the recall,” said Michael Schmidt of The Schmidt Firm in Dallas, Texas. Schmidt pointed to the results of a CDC survey this past summer which showed that less than half of surveyed contact lens wearers were aware of the recall and that unwary consumers were continuing to use the product. More troubling, officials also reported that CDC received reports of at least four new cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis linked to use of the product after the recall went into effect. A spokesman for CDC reportedly called the continued use of the product by those unaware of the risk “a real tragedy.” On July 31, the official FDA website announced that the recall had been reclassified from “voluntary” to “Class 1,” which FDA reserves for cases where product use is associated with the “reasonable probability” of “serious adverse health consequences or death.”
The newest personal injury lawsuits follow a ruling by a California judge granting a plaintiff’s request, opposed by AMO, to have all current and future California lawsuits involving AMO’s solutions coordinated in a single court. “Coordination will create some efficiencies that should expedite discovery and trials,” said Thomas M. Moore of Moore Labriola LLP in Newport Beach, who also represents the new plaintiffs. Moore anticipates that the California Judicial Council (the administrative arm of the California Supreme Court) will soon assign a specific judge to hear all of the cases.
*Anders v. AMO 30-2007-00100195, Berardi v. AMO 30-2007-00100191, Carlisle v. AMO 30-2007-00100074-CU-PL-CJC, David v. AMO 30-2007-00100043, Mary v. AMO 30-2007-00100145-CU-LL-CJC, Greene v. AMO 30-2007-00100144-CU-PL-CJC, Grigg v. AMO 30-2007-00100071-CU-PL-CJC, Hathcock v. AMO 30-2007-00100047, Husain v. AMO 30-2007-00100075-CL-PU-CJC, Moore v. AMO 30-2007-00100149-CU-PL-CJC, Nelson v. AMO 30-2007-00100134-CU-PL-CJC, Phillips v. AMO 30-2007-00100045, Reyes v. AMO 30-2007-00100146-CU-PL-CJC, Rieder v. AMO 30-2007-00100194, Pyle v. AMO – 30-2007-00100189, Straub v. AMO 30-2007-00100048, Syfert v. AMO 30-2007-00100192, Welsh v. AMO 30-2007-00100051, Whetstone v. AMO 30-20007-00100065-CU-PL-CJC, Vargas v AMO LC 079919