January 21, 2022

The Post and Courier reported in December 2021 that breast cancer survivors who had surgery at Roper Hospital (Roper) in Charleston, South Carolina filed lawsuits in November 2021 alleging that they developed non-tuberculous mycobacteria infections following breast reconstruction surgery at Roper. Non-tuberculous mycobacteria is present in health care settings and is also widely present in soil, surface water, and in tap water. Non-tuberculous mycobacteria is slow-growing bacteria that is highly resistant to antibiotics. The November lawsuits are in addition to similar lawsuits that were filed in 2018, none of which have been resolved.

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated with regard to the recent filings: “We originally alleged Roper should have known its outdated, contaminated water system was causing bacterial infections in patients. Through discovery conducted in the cases, and as set forth in the new complaints against Kathy Ward, we are now confident Roper was made aware of the problem and delayed acting until after numerous preventable infections occurred.”

The November lawsuits allege that the first of the bacterial infections involving a plastic surgery patient occurred in 2011. The plaintiffs allege that around November 2015, a Charleston plastic surgeon alerted hospital officials to the fact that his patients were developing infections after surgeries at Roper. The plastic surgeon allegedly advised Roper again in mid-2016 about his continuing infection concerns. The plaintiffs allege that hospital infection preventionist Katherine Ward did not properly respond to the infections.

Many of the plaintiffs allege that they had previously undergone mastectomies and then opted for breast reconstruction surgery after which they felt a “heaviness” in their breasts following the procedure. When fluid from the surgical site was drained, it was “rust colored” and tested positive for the bacteria, according to the lawsuits. The plaintiffs allege that they were required to receive several weeks of daily IV antibiotics. At least one of the plaintiffs had to be re-hospitalized after experiencing fatigue, dizziness, and dehydration from the drugs administered to fight the infection. Other plaintiffs allege that they suffered similar symptoms that developed over several months.


According to the CDC, every day, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) include central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia. Infections may also occur at surgery sites, known as surgical site infections. The CDC works to monitor and prevent these infections because they are an important threat to patient safety.


If you or a loved one may have suffered serious injury (or worse) as a result of a hospital-acquired infection or medical malpractice in South Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

Visit our website or telephone us on our toll-free line in the United States (800-295-3959) to be connected with local medical malpractice attorneys who may assist you with your medical malpractice claim.

Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.