Plaintiffs want to freeze $461M in assets
The lawyer suing to block the owners of the Framingham pharmacy linked to a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak from selling off $461 million in assets said he hasn’t ruled out suing the state, as well, as questions mount about official oversight of the troubled New England Compounding Center.
“All options are being investigated,” Thomas M. Sobol told the Herald after a two-hour hearing before U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV yesterday.
Saylor took under advisement Sobol’s request on behalf of a single mother from Pennsylvania and a family man from Nashua, N.H. — both stricken with meningitis after receiving steroid injections for back pain — that the assets of NECC and its Westboro-based sister pharmacy Ameridose be frozen and their co-owners Barry Cadden and brother-in-law Gregory Conigliaro, be enjoined from taking action to shield their own fortunes.
“There’s just too many moving parts and open questions for me to rule from the bench. I could benefit from a little more thought,” the jurist said after a two-hour hearing that he continued to Nov. 28.
The assets Sobol seeks to preserve for any future monetary judgments stemming from Michele Erkan’s and Robert Cole’s personal injury civil suits include Cadden’s 13-room, $1.8 million manse in Wrentham and a Rhode Island beach home, as well as Conigliaro’s $3.5 million residence in Southboro and a $700,000 vacation home on Cape Cod. Characterizing their business practices as “grotesque” and designed only “to pocket money in disregard for public health,” Sobol told Saylor, “Every single member of the family knew what was going on.”
Cadden’s lawyer Bruce Singal said, “Our clients’ hearts go out to these people,” but, he said, “It’s important to understand these are not ordinary circumstances, and they have a right to defend themselves.”
NECC lawyer Alan Winchester cautioned Saylor that to find in favor of Erkan and Cole before even basic pre-trial preparation has occurred “would be a terrible stigma to bear” for his client, as it would appear to the public the company is already guilty as charged. He also said there is “no evidence” the shots Erkan and Cole received were from the tainted lots.
“It’s just rank speculation built on hope,” Winchester said. “Due process should not be washed away by seedy newspaper articles.”
The fungal meningitis outbreak has already killed more than 30 people across the country and sickened 361 others. Erkan’s and Cole’s suits against NECC are two of 12 pending in Boston’s federal court alone.