- Law Job Star
U.S. District Judge Dennis Saylor Permits Civil Suits in Meningitis Outbreak to Continue
by Nabeal Twereet
Frank Dennis Saylor IV was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. He attended Northwestern University and graduated with a B.S. in 1977. In 1981, Saylor earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School. After law school, he joined Goodwin Procter in Boston, where he enjoyed private practice from 1981-87 and 1993-2004. Saylor served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1987-1990. From 1990-1993, he became a Special counsel and chief of staff to the assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Saylor is known for representing KF Industries, Inc. and Circor International, Inc. and high-ranking company administrators as a criminal defense attorney while those companies were investigated for trafficking Chinese assembled valves and marketing the valves as manufactured goods in the United States between 2001 and 2004. The investigation against the companies was eventually dismissed by Michael Shelby, a United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
On July 30, 2003, Saylor was appointed by the 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. On June 1, 2004, the judge was confirmed by the United States Senate and he received his commission one day later.
Judge Saylor Consents on Proceeding with Civil Suits in Meningitis Outbreak
On Wednesday, November 28, 2012, Federal Judge Dennis Saylor permitted civil suits against Framingham pharmacy, which has been blamed for the deaths of at least thirty-six people, to continue and he pointed out that criminal charges in this case will most likely occur. According to a Yahoo article, “Judge allows civil suits in meningitis outbreak to proceed,” Saylor discarded arguments from attorneys representing Framingham, its owners and an associate company called Ameridose to postpone the beginning phase of the civil proceedings while waiting for a board of judges in Washington to assemble next year and discuss how to deal with the approximate seventy lawsuits filed in Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee and Massachusetts.
The Yahoo article quoted Saylor when he said, “I don't want two or three or four months to go by with nothing happening.” The judge noted that the demands of the attorneys in the civil lawsuits would follow those of state and federal health experts and any criminal investigations. Saylor stated, “There may be a grand jury investigation, I don't know, but there is certainly a potential criminal investigation overlaid on this.”
The Boston Globe editorial, “US judge allows access to lab in meningitis suit,” reports that Saylor ruled on November 28 that lawyers representing their clients who caught fungal meningitis will be permitted to carry out their own investigation of Framingham while they wait to hear from a board of federal judges on where the cases will take place. The Boston Globe article mentioned that twelve federal lawsuits have been filed in Massachusetts against Framingham since the company has been blamed for selling contaminated steroids that generated a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak. The column also pointed out that it might take months before the public will know if other lawsuits will be filed across the United States and if the cases will be heard in the state of Massachusetts.
The Boston Globe reported that a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will gather in D.C. and hold a hearing on January 31, 2013. The panel will reveal its decision in February. Until then, Saylor told attorneys who represented the plaintiffs that they can conduct their own investigations of the Framingham facilities. The judge said, “We're either going to do it now, or we're not going to do it at all,”
In Boston Herald article, “Judge to NECC: Don't delete any emails, evidence,” Saylor warns Framingham not to ruin or meddle with anything inside the company's walls. The judge even advised Framingham not to store evidence on home computers or on cell phones. Saylor plans on issuing an evidence-preservation order for the twelve civil lawsuits awaiting Framingham and Ameridose in Boston's federal court. The judge asserted, “In a company that may or may not be going out of business – I don't know – it's easy for things to get lost. My expectation is I will issue such an order to ensure evidence is preserved.”
The Boston Herald column also explains that Saylor halted five million dollars of both pharmacies assets. The judge has momentarily united the twelve lawsuits for the suitability of pre-trial proceedings and discovery. Saylor is handling some of the seventy lawsuits that have been filed federally against the pharmacies across the country. The judge stated that these lawsuits could be combined into one umbrella and can be heard in Massachusetts or in another district by next year.
According to the Boston Herald, Since Monday, November 26, 2012, thirty-six people in nineteen states have been reported dead because of the meningitis outbreak. Approximately four hundred and seventy four victims have been seriously affected from the outbreak. Although Saylor permitted attorneys representing the plaintiffs to conduct their own investigation against the pharmacies, he specified that their investigation should not obstruct the government inspectors since the judge believes the government will most likely bring criminal charges against Framingham and Ameridose. The Boston Herald quoted the judge when he stated, “What we're doing here is important, but public health comes first. I don't want counsel tripping over public health authorities. When this can be done, I want to make sure it's done carefully.”
The Boston Globe editorial discusses that Kim Dougherty, an attorney who represents one of the twelve plaintiffs who filed federal lawsuits in the state of Massachusetts, acknowledged that victims of the outbreak should not have to wait until February to begin the investigation against the pharmacies. She stressed that too much time will have passed for the results to beneficial. Kim told the Boston Globe, “Time is of the essence. The further along we go to wait to get the sampling, the further it could be compromised.”
According to the Boston Globe, Frederick H. Fern, an attorney who represents Framingham, argued that it was too early for the plaintiffs to carry out their own investigation before it is decided whether the seventy lawsuits will be united. He believes the consolidation of the cases might lead to duplicated investigations and contradictory results. He told the Boston Globe, “It is too soon, because it flies in the face of the coordination that this case cries out for.” Frederick also debated weather the investigations would be productive to begin with because time has passed since the steroids were created and he believes there has been heavy traffic from federal and state inspectors inside the Framingham facility. He claimed, “There is no way that the premises now — in any way, shape, or form — show what things were like back in May, June, or July,”
Judge Saylor also expressed his skepticism that the attorneys for the plaintiffs will most likely not be able to get precise findings about the pharmacy's conditions. However, according to the Boston Globe, the judge said the attorneys representing the plaintiffs have the right to carry out an investigation. Saylor explained the timing as well as the guidelines of the investigation of the pharmacies to Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler. He wanted the attorneys representing the plaintiffs to coordinate with federal and state investigators who have been carrying out inspections of the pharmacies' facility since October 2012.
Yahoo's column reported that federal authorities raided Framingham's facilities in October. Carmen Ortiz, a United States Attorney, stated her office had been investigating the company. Ortiz's spokeswoman did not confirm if a grand jury has been assembled to hear possible criminal charges involving Framingham. Yahoo's article pointed out that since the outbreak, Framingham and Ameridose have shut down so investigators can examine the facilities sterility practices. Framingham's operations have been suspended and their products have been recalled due to the outbreak. The Yahoo editorial also made clear that a report produced in early November by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found unsterile conditions (as well as bugs) when their investigators inspected the Ameridose's Westborough, Massachusetts facility.