Local family files lawsuit over meningitis outbreak



MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Health officials have confirmed that a fungus behind a meningitis outbreak has also been found in unopened vials of steroid medication.

The Food and Drug Administration said the fungus was in one lot of vials made in August by the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass.

The specialty pharmacy has been at the center of a national investigation into more than 250 fungal meningitis cases, including at least 20 deaths.

Health officials said this week that 40 of 42 patients were infected with a fungus called Exserohilum rostratum.

In the meantime, a lawyer representing another family filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer.

Godwin Mitchell is now partially paralyzed and sitting in a hospital north of Marion County.

Family members told WFTV Mitchell is the family patriarch, and the sickness has totally changed his life, which is why they filed the lawsuit.

Family members said even at 87, Mitchell drove his wife to the grocery store, paid bills and worked on 18 acres of land.

"One day, he's walking," said Mitchell's daughter, Debrah Marks. "The next day he's on his back. (We) don't know if he's going to live, if he's going to survive."

Marks, along with Mithcell's granddaughter and family attorney, met with reporters outside the Orange County courthouse after filing the lawsuit against NECC.

"(He's been) married 60 years, now lays in the hospital because of the sheer negligence of this company, because of fraudulent, deceptive acts of this company," said attorney Christopher Chestnut.

Family members said Mithcell had hip pain and was injected with the steroid at a local pain clinic. Now, family members said he can't walk, struggles to speak, and they don't know if he even understands what's going on around him.

"I wash his face, I shave him," said Marks. "I talk to my dad, and I just can't imagine what he's feeling, what he's thinking laying there."

Chestnut said 15 other possible victims have contacted his office, and more lawsuits could follow.