Arkansas cancer clinic lawsuit adds two new plaintiffs who say bacterial outbreak sickened them

Two new plaintiffs who say they were sickened in a bacterial outbreak have been named in a lawsuit against a Pine Bluff cancer clinic, and their attorney has requested a group of the clinic's patients be certified as a class, according to court documents.

An amended complaint filed Monday by attorney Gary Green adds plaintiffs Robert Mingo and Alice Jenkins to the Jefferson County circuit court suit that alleges medical malpractice by Arkansas Cancer Institute, where more than 50 patients were diagnosed with a previously unknown bacteria last year.

Court records say Mingo, Jenkins and previously named plaintiff Steven Edwards were clinic patients with chemotherapy ports who were infected with the bacteria, which had been nicknamed FVL-2018-32.

The outbreak was linked to a saline flush process that had been used on ports, clinic officials have said. Ports are devices, usually implanted in a vein in the chest, that help administer medication.

Monday's filing alleges "negligent" behavior on the part of the clinic in the areas of sanitation, education, training, adherence to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention infection-control plan and compliance with the manufacturer's instructions regarding the saline flush, as well as departure from "the acceptable and applicable standard of care."

On Wednesday, the clinic's attorneys submitted their first response to the lawsuit, which a review of court records indicates is the first related to the outbreak. That answer responds to an earlier complaint that names only Edwards.

In their answer, attorneys David Glover and David Jung say the clinic denies all allegations, including negligence and departure from the standard of care, "both generally and specifically," and asks that the complaint be dismissed.

Responding to an emailed request for comment, Arkansas Cancer Institute administrator Michael Legate referred questions to the clinic's attorneys. Glover said he couldn't comment because of pending litigation.

In the document filed Monday, Green also requested the court recognize patients who had their ports flushed at the clinic between March 22 and Sept. 11 last year as a class.

If a judge agrees to that request, members of that group will be notified and given the opportunity to opt out of the class. For a class of this size, the plaintiff's attorney typically makes those notifications under the direction of the court, Green said in a short phone interview.

He'd decided to pursue the case as a class action in part because of "the number of people who had called us [about the incident, that] was steadily and slowly trickling in," he said.

The case has been assigned to Judge Robert Wyatt, according to the Jefferson County circuit court clerk.

Metro on 01/13/2019

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