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Products liability matters can be civil and criminal

Pennsylvania residents might not be aware that through 2013 and 2014, 750 people suffered from fungal meningitis due to contaminated steroid injections. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 76 of the victims died. In many products liability matters, civil actions could be filed, but in this case, criminal charges were filed as well.

According to federal authorities, in 2012, New England Compounding center produced and released approximately 10,000 doses of tainted methylprednisolone acetate. The company is accused of using ingredients that were expired, not sterilizing the medicine and failing to correct mold issues in the rooms where the company made the medicines. In 2014, several of the company's executives were criminally charged, and the trial for the first of them is set to begin.

The executive currently on trial faces 25 counts of murder in the second degree, among other charges. The outbreak hit the states of Michigan and Tennessee the hardest. In Tennessee, 16 people died and 153 got sick. In Michigan, 19 people died and 264 people got sick. A $200 million settlement was reached that resolved the majority of the civil claims against the pharmacy.

The majority of products liability matters do not include criminal proceedings unless the actions of the company or companies involved are similar to the accusations made in this case. That does not mean, however, that a civil claim filed here in Pennsylvania or elsewhere will not be successful. The two court proceedings are mutually exclusive and require different levels of proof. Anyone who believes they suffered injuries due to a dangerous drug would benefit from discussing the matter with an attorney.

Source: USA Today, "First criminal trial in deadly fungal meningitis outbreak begins Monday", Stacey Barchenger, Jan. 9, 2017

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