by: Edward B. Mulligan V, Attorney
On February 12, 2013, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) transferred some 134 cases filed against New England Compounding Center, the now-notorious seller of contaminated steroid injections, to the District of Massachusetts for consolidated pretrial proceedings. While a group of plaintiffs argued for consolidation in Minnesota, the JPML opted to send the cases to the District of Massachusetts, where NECC is headquartered. The consolidation of the civil cases in the District of Massachusetts is designed to eliminate duplicative discovery and prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings. It will also help to conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary, particularly in light of the fact that that the NECC bankruptcy case is also pending in the District of Massachusetts. The litigation is captioned In Re New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. Products Liability Litigation and will be run by Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, who already issued a broad evidentiary preservation order in December and ruled that the plaintiffs could inspect NECC's premises.
The District of Massachusetts is also where NECC's bankruptcy case, filed in December 2012, is currently pending. Although NECC has filed for bankruptcy, there is evidence suggesting that the owners of NECC have substantial funds and assets. For example, in January, Bankruptcy Judge Henry Boroff, issued an order attaching up to $21.1 million of the owners' assets. And on February 11, Judge Boroff issued an additional order barring the owners of NECC from transferring or dissipating assets, other than living expenses, and preventing them from receiving funds from NECC's sister company, Ameridose LLC. The order makes permanent a temporary restraining order issued by Boroff in January. It will be in effect until the cases against NECC are resolved.
To date, the CDC has linked 704 cases and 46 deaths to the fungal meningitis outbreak believed to have originated at NECC's facilities in Framingham, Massachusetts.