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January 13, 2023

December 21, 2023

A Kansas jury rebuffed a Kansas City woman’s effort to win damages for a bacterial infection she suffered following knee injections using a commercial stem cell product that its manufacturer would later pull off the market.

Michelle Twyman initially sued eight defendants in Miami County District Court over the April 2017 incident, including the Overland Park, Kansas, clinic where she received the injection as well as the distributor and manufacturer of ReGen30, a stem cell treatment derived from umbilical cord blood and marketed as a salve for joint pain and arthritis.

According to the suit, Twyman developed an infection in her left knee after injections to both knees at a Peak Health clinic in Overland Park, Kansas. The infection forced her to limp, which affected her hip and caused a stress fracture in her right foot, Twyman alleged. Her condition worsened, leading to a right knee replacement in December 2018, followed by a left knee replacement three months later.

In fall 2018, the federal Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12 cases of bacterial infections in patients who received ReGen injections.

The sole remaining defendant at trial was the Peak Health’s clinic employee who administered the knee injections, defended by attorneys from Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder.

But two years after the fact, the absence of the leftover vial or similar forensic evidence — along with Twyman’s exposure to bacteria in her job as a house cleaner — likely divided the jury, said plaintiff’s attorney Wes Shumate of Davis, Bethune & Jones.

“The question at trial was, ‘Did she get E. coli from her job, or was it from the possibility of a contaminated product?’” he said, noting that his client went to the health clinic immediately after cleaning houses —including bacteria-laden bathrooms — all day.  “And we never had the answer.”

The jury deliberated for two hours following the weeklong trial in mid-January, said Shumate, who despite the losing verdict considered the case a win for a client faced with “crushing amount” of medical debt that was negotiated downward for an undisclosed amount.

This article was written by Alan Scher Zagier and published in Missouri Lawyers Media.