Clayton County

EXCLUSIVE: Family files lawsuit after father, son die from alleged exploding medical device

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — In a Channel 2 Action News exclusive, Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne has spent days digging into the case after a lawsuit was filed claiming a heart device exploded inside of a father, killing him and his son in Clayton County.

The death is outlined in a lawsuit filed by the family, who spoke with Winne about what they call a series of failures involving a sprinkler system and other fire safety measures at the apartment complex where they lived.

Aji Mboob said her brother-in-law, Muhammedou Tarawally, once told her he would have lost his life without the medical care he could get in the United States.

He emigrated to the U.S. from Gambia to join his wife, Mboob’s sister, Fatou Secka, a naturalized citizen.

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“I lose my life, it was my life,” Secka told Channel 2 Action News.

Now, a lawsuit alleges Tarawally, who had been diagnosed with heart failure, had an implanted HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assist System (HM3), and that the battery cells inside it combusted or exploded, which stopped Tarawally’s heart and caused his death.

“They were living, they were a happy couple,” Mboob said about her sister and brother-in-law.

The lawsuit involves two wrongful death claims. It says fire spread over Tarawally’s body and the bed he was on.

Firefighters found Secka and Tarawally’s son Matarr, who was “just three weeks shy of his fourth birthday,” dead at the foot of the bed from smoke inhalation.

“It’s just a horrific scenario,” the family’s attorney, Mike McGlamry, said.

He continued on saying several companies allegedly bear responsibility for the heart pump’s failure. The lawsuit says the device was manufactured and sold by Thoratec, LLC and Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

“This is a tragic situation and our heart goes out to the family. Our device has an extremely strong safety record and there’s no history of the controller, battery or LVAD catching on fire,” Scott Stoffell, an Abbot spokesman, said. “We believe the allegations are without merit.”


In the lawsuit, McGlamry alleges Matar’s death, on Christmas of last year, was preventable and caused by a series of failures by Ashford at Stoneridge Apartments, where the family lived, as well as other failures.

“The sprinkler system was not activated, was not working. That would’ve clearly stopped this fire, and would’ve clearly if not saved the dad would’ve clearly saved their son,” McGlamry told Channel 2 Action News.

Winne tried to get answers from the apartment complex office, but Michael Moore, an attorney for the complex, said he cannot comment because of the ongoing litigation.

McGlamry said the day before the fatal fire, a frozen, burst sprinkler system pipe was leaking from the attic of Building 16, where Tarawally, Secka and their son Matar lived.

He said there was allegedly a similar issue in Building 15 at the complex, and that Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services, doing what it’s supposed to, turned the water off in both buildings and informed a complex manager that both were supposed to be on a mandatory, 24/7 fire watch.

“Essentially, someone on the grounds, walking the premises around the apartment building, up and down the stairwells, constantly checking,” McGlamry explained.

The complex is reportedly no stranger to controversy. The lawsuit suggested that just months earlier, Building 4 suffered a catastrophic fire, and that that sprinkler system also didn’t work. The lawsuit alleges that none of the complex’s fire hydrants had water pressure.

In the lawsuit over Tarawally’s death, the family claims that the HM3′s system controller caused the device to fail, due to a defect in the battery cell, which they allege caused it to internally short.

“I want Fatou to have justice for this,” Mboob said about the losses. “It’s so painful to lose your husband and your son.”

All three battery cells were manufactured by a company known as Panasonic Corporation of North America and Panasonic Energy Corporation of America. Additional information in the lawsuit said the back-up battery’s three cells and a circuit board were encased in an 11-volt battery pack made by Inventus Power (Delaware), Inc.

In response to Channel 2 Action News’ requests for comment, an email on behalf of both Panasonic Corporation of North America and Panasonic Energy Corporation of America said “Thank you for reaching out. However, we do not comment on pending litigation.”

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