Surgical Tools Sterilized in Hydraulic Waste Result in Suit
Devicemakers Steris and Cardinal Health are facing a class action lawsuit after surgical instruments at two hospitals were sterilized in hydraulic waste fluid from elevators rather than Steris cleaning solutions.
The mix-up occurred when an elevator company working for Duke Health Raleigh Hospital in North Carolina used empty sterilization fluid barrels to discard hydraulic waste fluid. The barrels were picked up by Cardinal, the sterilization fluid distributor, and were mistakenly restocked and shipped to Raleigh Hospital and Durham Regional Hospital. The hospitals used the fluid as part of their sterilization processes for surgical instruments in November and December 2004.
An undisclosed number of affected patients reached a settlement last month with Duke University Health Systems, which operates the two hospitals. Settlement terms are confidential, HensonFuerst, the plaintiffs’ law firm, said.
HensonFuerst also is representing 67 plaintiffs in the new suit, which was filed June 17 in Durham County Superior Court in North Carolina. These plaintiffs have developed various symptoms and injuries after exposure to the waste fluid, the suit claims.
The complaint says Steris and Cardinal acted negligently in their handling of the incident.
Cardinal should have refused the barrels as returns based on their condition, the lack of paperwork and safety seals and other circumstances, the suit says.
It also alleges that Steris failed to respond properly to complaints from both hospitals about greasy, oily instruments coming out of the washers, thus violating its own policies.