Our Boston product liability lawyers recently discussed the arrest of NECC owners and employees in connection with the meningitis outbreak that occurred in 2012. The outbreak, which left 64 dead and caused more than 750 people to contract meningitis, was traced to contaminated steroids from the New England Compounding Center. The contamination occurred because basic safety protocols were not followed when the drugs were being compounded and packaged.
Following the public health crisis due to the contaminated steroids, NECC went bankrupt. This left many victims turning to suing sister companies of NECC to try to recover compensation for their monetary and non-economic damages. It also left the NECC owners and employees without any consequences to face for what they had done. Now, however, the arrest of the owners and of some high level employees at the pharmacy could change things.
The Arrest of NECC Owners and Employees
The NECC owners and employees face varying criminal charges based on their individual roles within the compounding pharmacy. Charges of racketeering and second degree murder are the most serious. If the owners and pharmacists responsible for causing the outbreak are found guilty of these charges, it could mean decades in prison for them.
The victims and those who lost loved ones may be gratified to see that those who were responsible for causing them harm could spend time behind bars and be held legally accountable for the losses they caused. The Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division has described the indictment as only the “next step in a process that began two years ago when dedicated public health officials across the country identified and stopped a deadly outbreak.”
By holding the owners and pharmacists accountable and seeking harsh penalties, the hope is that future outbreaks will be prevented. An arrest and conviction could be a strong deterrent against others who run compounding pharmacies, or who manufacture any type of drugs that patients depend upon. Arresting those who willfully disregarded the risk they were causing to human life goes beyond just holding the company liable in a civil lawsuit. If executives and high-level employees are held personally responsible for the role that they played and end up incarcerated for not protecting the public, future CEOs are going to think differently appropriate prioritizing profits over safety.
For victims left coping with medical bills and uncompensated losses, the fact that justice may be done and people may go to prison may provide only limited relief. Sending those responsible for the meningitis outbreak to prison does not compensate victims for their damages or losses. However, there are also other implications of the arrest. For example, CBS Local reports that the federal indictment in the NECC case seeks forfeiture of the compounding pharmacy owner’s home if he is convicted. Forfeiture of personal assets could make funds available to provide some type of financial assistance or compensation for victims.
Arresting those who owned and worked in the compounding pharmacy is an unusual step, in an unusual situation. It is the right step forward, as the patients who were made sick or who died because of the unsterile compounding pharmacy deserve every possible opportunity to get justice for what happened to them.
If you or a loved one was injured by defective drugs, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
More Blog Entries:
Update on New England Steroid Injection Bacteria Outbreak, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, June 22, 2013