The American Red Cross's failure to adopt blood-screening tests in the early 1980s resulted in "at least 230" transfusion recipients being infected with AIDS from contaminated blood, according to a class-action negligence lawsuit filed here yesterday.
The law firm of Ashcraft & Gerel filed the suit against the American National Red Cross in Superior Court of the District of Columbia on behalf of Roland Ray, a District grocer who allegedly received contaminated blood in August 1984 after being shot during a holdup.
The suit asks the court to declare as a class all persons who contracted AIDS from "improperly screened blood" supplied by Red Cross's Washington regional blood center between June 1984 and March 1985 and who later developed AIDS.
Brian Ruberry, a Red Cross spokesman, said it was the organization's "standing operating procedure not to comment on pending litigation."
He confirmed that Red Cross officials had been served with a copy of the suit.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of a Food and Drug Administration report last week that detailed deficiencies in the operation of American Red Cross's national headquarters here.
Among other points, the report said the Red Cross failed to report to the FDA 230 cases in which individuals may have been infected with AIDS from contaminated blood, in violation of its own reporting procedures.
The suit contends that, during a nine-month period in 1984 and 1985, Red Cross officials chose not to use several tests that were available to screen out blood that had "a high likelihood of transmitting AIDS."
"The Red Cross dragged its feet and chose not to use the other tests which were available to them, allowing possibly thousands of innocent transfusion recipients to be infected with AIDS," the suit says.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and asks that the Red Cross be ordered to pay for medical monitoring of all plaintiffs "to keep a continuous evaluation of their health conditions."