Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 27, 2013

Mich. AG seeks criminal probe of meningitis deaths

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Traverse City-based attorney Mark Dancer and attorney Daniel Meyers are representing the two women. The attorneys plan to file suit on behalf of at least 34 other victims.

One Traverse City-area woman, Kip Taylor, 82, told the Record-Eagle in February she was hospitalized after receiving a contaminated injection. She said she struggles with speech, motor skills and other basic tasks.

“It’s damn scary,” Taylor said. “It’s not something you want ... I can’t walk. I can’t do anything at all.”

A grand jury can subpoena witnesses and compel testimony under oath, while state investigators do not have that power. Schuette said a grand jury investigation could unlock the “secrecy” surrounding the company’s management, the Michigan facilities where the steroid shots were injected and the identity of specific individuals responsible.

He said it is a crime to knowingly or recklessly sell or manufacturer an adulterated drug and that anyone convicted on that charge could face up to 15 years in prison.

In the petition to the appeals court, the state said there is probable cause to believe that New England Compounding Center distributed tainted drugs to Michigan counties and that it “knew or had reason to know that the adulterated drugs could cause great bodily harm or death.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with a spokesman for the company based in Framingham, Mass.

Michigan’s criminal probe of the outbreak could be the first state-level investigation of its kind. Federal officials have opened a criminal probe into the company and its owner.

Schuette said the “broad” probe would focus on the company along with four clinics in Genesee, Grand Traverse, Livingston and Macomb counties that administered the contaminated drug that was supposed to ease pain.

He did not rule out approaching other states, though typically state attorneys general coordinate more on civil — not criminal — cases.

The outbreak of meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, was discovered in Tennessee in September. New England Compounding Center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December.

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