LOS ANGELES (CN) - In a $500 million class action, a surgeon claims Kimberly-Clark recommends its medical gowns for healthcare workers treating Ebola patients, though it knows they do not protect against the virus.
Kimberly-Clark's "recklessness and indifference to the prospect that it is responsible for placing patients and health care professionals at great and unnecessary risk of infection and bodily harm is nothing short of astonishing and, more to the point, utterly reprehensible," Dr. Hrayr Shahinian claims in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Federal Court.
A spokeswoman for Shahinian's law firm told Courthouse News that the gowns had been supplied to medical workers in West Africa.
Shahinian claims Kimberly-Clark has known since 2013 that its MicroCool Breathable High Performance Surgical Gowns do not provide adequate protection, but remained silent on the issue and failed to recall the product.
Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex, Huggies and other famous brands, enjoys a 50 percent share of surgical gown market, according to the lawsuit.
In a submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the corporation claimed that during testing the gowns resisted exposure to synthetic blood and blood-borne pathogens, Shahinian says.
But the surgeon claims the gowns experienced "catastrophic failures," though Kimberly-Clark claims they offer the highest level of protection against liquids, under Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation's Level 4 Liquid Barrier Standards.
Kimberly-Clark still recommends the protective gowns as healthcare professionals around the world work to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the West African nations Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the complaint.
According to Shahinian, a statement at the Kimberly-Clark website links to a guide that recommends the high-performance gown to workers treating Ebola.
Kimberly Clark "together with certain of its employees, executives, agents, distributors, and others have been silent in disclosing the truth," the lawsuit states.
In addition to $500 million in damages, Shahinian wants a judge to order Kimberly-Clark to make clear on its website and packaging that the gowns are unsafe and do not meet industry standards.
He is represented by Michael Avenatti of Eagan Avenatti of Newport Beach.
"Kimberly-Clark needs to immediately recall these gowns and come clean with the FDA, CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], healthcare professionals and the general public," Avenatti said in a statement. "The risks associated with continued concealment of the truth are far too great."
Eagan Avenatti spokeswoman Suzy Quinn told Courthouse News that the gowns had been supplied to healthcare workers in West Africa.
Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand said he could not comment on pending litigation.
"The company does stand behind the efficacy and safety of its products," Brand said.
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