Two Mississippi Lawsuits Filed Over Parasite-Tainted Organs

September 21, 2011

The families of two transplant patients who received organs from an unidentified donor with a rare, undetected parasite have filed lawsuits against Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Ellecia Small of Canton died Feb. 3, 2010, after being removed from life support. Another patient, who received an organ, had only been identified by UMMC as an Alabama man. The Clarion-Ledger reports that a lawsuit identities him as Kinyata Johnson.

Johnson’s attorney, Joe Tatum of Jackson, said the man was released from UMMC in May 2010 but requires constant care and is partially blind.

Tatum has filed separate lawsuits in Hinds County Circuit Court on behalf of each family. The lawsuits seek unspecified damages.

“Both defendants were aware that the kidney donor was infected with encephalitis before the subject kidney was transplanted into Ellecia Smith. And as a result, Ellecia Small, developed severe encephalitis, neurological damage and died,” the lawsuit says.

UMMC said in court papers that Small’s death was attributed to her previous medical conditions.

“While we’re sympathetic to the patients, their families and the health care professionals involved in this tragic incident, we’re unable to comment on pending litigation,” UMC spokesman Jack Mazurak said.

The lawsuit involving Small is scheduled for trial next year.

Tatum said Circuit Judge Tomie Green recently consolidated the two lawsuits for discovery evidence, but it doesn’t mean they will be consolidated for trial.

Christy Jones, an attorney for UMC, said in court papers that the cases should be consolidated because they arise out of the same event and the discovery evidence will be virtually the same.

Discovery is the process in which both sides in a case get evidence from each other before a trial.

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