Local News

Hearing held in tainted surgical instruments case

Posted November 22, 2010

— A Superior Court judge on Monday said he needed more time to consider issues argued during a hearing regarding a lawsuit over surgical instruments washed in hydraulic fluid six years ago.

Dozens of patients of Durham Regional and Duke Health Raleigh hospitals have claimed to suffer from health problems ranging from infections to immune system reactions after the exposure.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed since then by some of the approximately 3,800 surgical patients who were exposed to the tainted instruments.

Much of Monday’s hearing had to do with whether plaintiffs suing Duke University Health System and two other companies have valid complaints.

Judge Robert C. Ervin has already dismissed the claims of five people who were initially part of the lawsuit, and another person voluntarily withdrew.

Duke wants those people to pay for legal costs, saying they were advised through attorneys that they were not affected by the instruments.

Attorneys for the patients disagreed, saying that even if the patients weren’t exposed, many of them received letters about the situation and worried about possible exposure.

Duke Health lawsuit back in court Duke Health lawsuit back in court

Duke says it was up to people after they got the letters to contact their doctors to ask if they were exposed.

The patients' attorneys disagree.

They also say Duke hasn't turned over enough evidence about tests done about the harm of hydraulic fluid and how much of it was on the equipment.

The mix-up began after fluid had been drained from hospital elevators, put in empty detergent drums and then mistakenly shipped back to the hospitals.

Duke Health officials maintained the instruments were safe because they were sterilized after being washed in the hydraulic fluid, but they settled in May 2008 with 127 patients for $26 million, according to federal court documents.

Automatic Elevator Co. Inc. settled all claims against it for $1 million, while claims were pending against Cardinal Health Inc., which shipped the drums of hydraulic fluid back to the hospitals.

Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. of America, which provided a liability policy to Automatic Elevator, had a pending federal lawsuit in which it wants a judge to rule that Mitsui and Automatic Elevator don't have to pay Duke for part of its settlement.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • tgiv Nov 22, 2010

    Gotta love the tribalists who will miss no opportunity to apply the dumbing lens of party politics to any economic or business issue--no matter how tenuous the linkage may be. The problems with our health care system have been building for decades--during the administrations of both parties. None of these politicians or parties have done anything to solve it. Here we are yet again pretending that one or the other has the solution. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

  • larryb46 Nov 22, 2010

    I was involved in the hydraulic fluid mess, but I am not involved in any law suit. I had a knee replacement then I had to have the replacement replaced. I had the second on done at UNC where my tissue samples were "misplaced" forever. So no tissue, no evidence. So no evidence, no law suit. Go to NC State vet school they can't do any worse.

  • Go Figure Nov 22, 2010

    Another DOOK mess up...go to UNC!

  • mshood7 Nov 22, 2010

    Has everyone forgotten the bad mistakes the companies "Elevator" and Cardinal" made due to incopentence and neglect? I don't see a major hospital known worldwide forgiving the incompetence that negated this supposedly "mistake?" They should be held accountable for their employees who were involved in this melay and if not fired alrealy, should have been. You can go back and read how this complacent company/companies neglected to conform to rules of the hospital which were completely ignored. So... yes, sombody deserves answers and if so ...so be it. Lives were disrupted although there was no complete concensus that health of many was put into jeopardy. It is unforutunate in this day and time that we are more concerned with diversity, illegal aliens rights, and policital correctness than with PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS TO EXCELLENT HEALTH CARE. Can't wait 'til Obamas Govt' sponsored HC kicks in and the nightmare begins to unfold that so many didn't bother to read including Ms. Pelosi and c

  • beachbum1 Nov 22, 2010

    Hospitals at thier finest...horrible around here. That poor girl that had the organ transplant with the wrong blood type. Too many errors

  • larryb46 Nov 22, 2010

    If hydraulic is a carcinogen on your skin,it's just a much of one inside your skin only you can't disinfect it inside your skin so you just suffer the consequences.

    apatient without a law suit

  • GWALLY Nov 22, 2010


    ...well we don't have to worry any longer...we now have "intelligent" government run health care!!!!!!!!

  • edbuck51 Nov 22, 2010

    hydralic fluid is really only motor oil, not much difference,I know the trial lawyers are going make it into a lot more

  • GOOD RIDDANCE TO SCUM Nov 22, 2010


  • Justin T. Nov 22, 2010

    Another bad thing about the mix up is that now the elevators don't work because they were serviced with surgical instrument cleaning fluid. What a mess.