The ebola virus viewed under a microscope. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The ebola virus viewed under a microscope. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Southland law firm is suing Kimberly-Clark Corp. for more than $500 million, alleging that it committed fraud by selling protective medical gowns marketed as protection against Ebola.

Eagan Avenatti’s proposed class-action lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court on Wednesday, alleges Kimberly-Clark falsely represented to health regulators and health care workers that its “MICROCOOL Breathable High Performance Surgical Gowns’ are impermeable and provide protection against Ebola.

A call for comment left with a Kimberly-Clark representative after regular business hours was not immediately answered.

The law firm alleges that the Dallas-based manufacturer of Kleenex and other products has known since 2013 that the gowns failed industry tests and do not meet relevant standards, thus placing health care professionals and patients at risk for infection.

According to the complaint, tests of numerous random samples from separate manufacturing lots showed that the gowns failed to meet medical standards, with many of the gowns experiencing failures that allowed liquid, bacterial and viral pathogens to penetrate the gowns.

“These are extremely serious allegations and ones that we do not make lightly,” said attorney Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti. “Kimberly-Clark needs to immediately recall these gowns and come clean with … health care professionals and the general public. The risks associated with continued concealment of the truth are far too great.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not detail where and when the tests were conducted or by whom.

The complaint alleges Kimberly-Clark knowingly misled the medical community, regulators and the general public about the safety of the gowns and, even after learning of multiple test failures, failed to alert the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, health care professionals and patients.

“Kimberly-Clark’s actions of concealing the truth about their surgical gowns and continuing to market them as impermeable is unconscionable,” alleged Los Angeles surgeon Hrayr Shahinian, the lead plaintiff in the suit.

“This conduct has placed physicians, health care workers and patients at risk of being unknowingly exposed to harmful bacteria, viruses and illness, including Ebola,” Shahinian said. “This is a very serious matter and deserves the immediate attention of regulators and the medical community.”

City News Service

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