Ninth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Lawsuit Against Abbott Labs For Selling Bacteria-Infected Drug That Allegedly Blinded Cataract Patients

In Gutierrez v. Advanced Medical Optics, the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by eight residents of Mexico blinded by eye infections allegedly caused by a bacteria-infected drug (Healon) administered during cataract surgery and manufactured by a company later acquired by Abbott Labs.

The California District Court originally dismissed the plaintiff's complaint on the ground that Mexico was available as an adequate alternative forum. Plaintiffs appealed, and contemporaneously filed an action in Mexico. During the pendency of plaintiffs’ appeal, the Mexican courts declined to exercise jurisdiction over the lawsuit filed there. The Ninth Circuit ruled that intervening events compelled a reconsideration of the district court's original dismissal, and proceed to vacate the dismissal and remand to the district court.

Stories about the lawsuit in the media indicate that Abbott Labs did not recall Healon for over a year after the infections were reported in the case at bar, and in general has a history of being unusually slow to issue recalls.