McGuireWoods Team Secures Favorable Outcome for Client Olympus in High-Profile Product Liability Trial Involving Medical Scopes

July 26, 2017

A McGuireWoods team helped secure a favorable outcome for client Olympus Corp. after a high-profile eight-week product liability trial in Seattle.

On July 24, a jury rejected claims that a widely used medical scope that provides images of the stomach and small intestine was unsafe after a deadly superbug outbreak at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center resulted in the death of Richard Bigler and 17 other patients at the hospital.

The trial was the first in the United States involving allegations that gastrointestinal probes caused outbreaks of infections by drug-resistant bacteria and it was watched closely by plaintiffs’ lawyers across the country who have similar suits pending against Olympus.

“We are appreciative that the jury recognized that Olympus’s duodenoscope design was not unsafe and did not contribute to Mr. Bigler’s unfortunate passing in 2013,” McGuireWoods Richmond partner Sam Tarry told the Los Angeles Times. He and Raleigh office managing partner Mark Anderson led the litigation team.

Bigler’s widow, Theresa Bigler, and her four grandchildren asked the jury to award in excess of $200 million claim against the Olympus defendants. The hospital later joined the Biglers as plaintiffs. While the jury ordered Olympus to pay the hospital $6.6 million, it directed the hospital to pay $1 million to the Bigler family.

At trial, Olympus effectively rebutted the plaintiffs’ claims that it acted recklessly by not warning American hospitals about prior outbreaks of drug-resistant infections and the hospital’s allegations that the company failed to address a design flaw that harbored deadly bacteria inside the reusable scopes.

In closing arguments, Mark Anderson said the Seattle outbreak would have occurred regardless of who manufactured the scopes used.

“The proof in this case, from their witnesses, is there is no increased risk with the [Olympus scope],” the Times quoted Mark as saying.