A 68-year-old grandmother in Florida has filed a lawsuit claiming that she is now legally blind after her right eye had to be surgically removed due to a bacterial infection caused by over-the-counter eyedrops.
The suit, filed last week in Miami-Dade County on behalf of Clara Oliva, claims that “Ezricare Artificial Tears” are preservative-free lubricant eyedrops designed to protect against eye irritation and redness. However, because the Product is “preservative free,” chemicals used to prevent the growth of bacteria have been removed and caused Oliva to contract a drug-resistant infection resulting in the loss of her eye, according to the complaint.
Oliva had been obtaining and using Bausch & Lomb lubricant eyedrops for several years until her insurer, HealthSpring, in May 2022 switched brands and began authorizing EzriCare Artificial Tears, the suit states. She used the new drops for several months until her right eye — in which she previously had no issues — suddenly became “red, swollen, and abnormally watery.”
She was diagnosed with a “corneal scratch” by her doctors at the Leon Medical Center and prescribed a drug regimen, but her symptoms continued to worsen and the visual acuity in her right eye began deteriorating, the complaint states.
Leon Medical, HealthSpring, and EzriCare are all named defendants in the negligent product liability suit. Global Pharma Healthcare, an India-based company that manufactured the drops, and two companies involved in the distribution and selling of the product are also named defendants.
Despite “aggressive medical treatment,” Oliva developed a corneal ulcer as a result of the bacterial infection and her condition continued to decline.
“Given the severity of the infection in Mrs. Oliva’s right eye, the exhaustion of treatment methods, and the risk of the infection spreading systematically creating a life-threatening condition, it was determined that an enucleation of Mrs. Oliva’s right eye was the best option to control the severe antibiotic resistant infection,” the suit states. “On September 1, 2022, Mrs. Oliva’s right eye was surgically removed and replaced with a plastic implant. Given her decreased visual acuity of 20/200 in her remaining left eye, Mrs. Oliva is now legally blind.”
In January, EzriCare issued a statement saying the company had been made aware of ongoing investigations being conducted by the CDC regarding “adverse events implicating various over-the-counter eye drops,” per the complaint.
About a week later, the CDC identified a multi-state outbreak of a rare strain of drug-resistant bacteria, “Pseudomonas Aeruginosa,” which had infected 55 patients in 12 states. That day, EzriCare pulled its Artificial Tears from shelves and advised consumers to cease using the product.
The following day, the CDC issued a statement “warning consumers and health care practitioners not to purchase and to immediately stop using the contaminated EzriCare Artificial Tears” due to “potential bacterial contamination.”
Global Pharma subsequently issued a recall of all unexpired lots of EzriCare Artificial Tears and confirmed that they may cause blindness.
Oliva is seeking damages for medical costs, bodily injury, pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, and mental distress, among other things.
“My client is horribly injured and now legally blind. I am currently investigating others similarly injured by this recalled product,” Oliva’s attorney Natasha Cortes wrote in an email to Law&Crime. “These companies must be held accountable for the devastating consequences their product has caused Ms. Oliva and other consumers.”
EzriCare did not immediately return Law&Crime’s request for comment on the lawsuit.
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