EDNY Decision Shows Breadth of Fraud Restitution Recoverable By Hospital For Mold-Contaminated Intravenous Bags
March 27, 2018
A hospital victimized by the sale of adulterated and mislabeled drug products successful obtained a Court order imposing restitution of over $825,000 earlier this month. EDNY Judge I. Leo Glasser’s decision in United States v. Tighe provides a helpful summary of restitution standards, and applies them to the response efforts of Yale-New Haven Hospital (“YNHH”) to protect patients from potential harm from mold-contaminated IV bags.
Defendants Pled Guilty To Selling Mold-Contaminated IV Bags
In Tighe, the two defendants were the owner and the director of pharmacy at Med Prep Consulting, Inc., a medical drug repackager. They pled guilty to wire fraud for failing to comply with professional standards for drug sterility and by introducing adulterated and misbranded drugs into the marketplace. YNHH sought restitution as one of the healthcare provider victims to whom Med Prep sold drug products.
The allegations of the superseding information were alarming. YNHH discovered visible floating particles in four IV bags of magnesium sulphate that were sold and labeled as sterile by Med Prep. The four IV bags were found to be contaminated with mold. Med Prep had sent YNHH four shipments of contaminated magnesium sulphate drug product. The defendants and Med Prep failed to meet acceptable industry standards in handling sterile drugs, including:
- Air filters in Med Prep’s cleanroom repeatedly failed inspections over five years.
- A cart was regularly pushed from Med Prep’s unsanitary warehouse (which contained mold) into the purportedly sterile cleanroom without being sterilized.
- Med Prep continued to clean surfaces with non-sterile isopropyl alcohol, which is inadequate to kill mold spores.
- Med Prep replaced expiration dates set by manufacturers with unsupported dates.
Mandatory Restitution for Health Care and Other Fraud
The Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 USC § 3663A, provides that, for all offenses against property, including fraud, the Court shall order that the defendant make restitution to the victim. Restitution under the MVRA is only available to a statutorily defined victim of the offense, and only for losses that were directly and proximately caused by the offense for which the defendant has been convicted.
Also, where the victim has not suffered injury or death, the MVRA only allows restitution for (1) “damage to or loss or destruction of property,” and (2) “necessary … expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.” Although the necessary expenses category lacks definition, Judge Glasser quoted the Second Circuit admonition in United States v. Maynard that it “takes a broad view of what expenses are ‘necessary.’”
Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Restitution Claim
In addressing YNHH’s restitution claim, the Court first recognized that the MVRA applied to the fraud claim and that YNHH was a statutory victim entitled to restitution. While defendants asserted that YNHH’s losses were not proximately caused by the offense, the Court rejected this argument because it was made after the 14-day time period to object to the presentence report. The presentence report had found that the defendants’ conduct directly and proximately caused the contamination at YNHH and the financial losses YNHH incurred. The Court also determined that the defendants’ failure to timely object was strategic, because a timely objection could have undercut their arguments that they were remorseful and accepted responsibility.
The Court next addressed whether YNHH’s losses were (i) “damages to or loss or destruction of property” and (ii) “necessary … expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense.”
Damages to Property
The Court first determined that YNHH’s “straightforward” losses to property were recoverable, including:
- The cost of drug products returned to Med Prep; and
- The cost of terminating all consigned medication housed at Med Prep.
The Court accepted YNHH’s undisputed assertions as to the value of the recalled drug products and the consigned products that were terminated.
Legal Fees and Costs
YNHH also sought recovery of legal fees and costs associated with the collection, review and preservation of documents requested by the government. The Second Circuit has held that “necessary expenses” for restitution can include attorney fees and accounting costs. Here, the Court found these expenses were recoverable because they related to YNHH’s responses to various subpoenas issued by the Department of Justice in connection with the case.
Responses to the Discovery of Contaminated Drug Products
The most interesting question addressed by the Court was whether expenses incurred as a result of YNHH’s responses to the discovery of the contaminated drug products were subject to restitution. These included:
- Patient and physician notification
- Purchase of anti-fungal prophylactic medication
- Patient disease surveillance
- Hospital administrative time responding to the contamination
- Pharmacy in-house admixture services and additional staffing
- Pharmacy response to the contamination
The District Court first noted the Second Circuit’s “broad view” of necessary expenses for restitution, and held that these were necessary expenses for restitution. YNHH needed to sequester and inventory the contaminated drug product from Med Prep, examine the sequestered drug product for mold, and notify patients potentially affected by the contamination. The expenses were necessary to protect YNHH’s ongoing, legitimate interest in the health of its patients and its duty to protect that interest. In addition, YNHH had a need to purchase anti-fungal medication and an obligation to monitor potentially exposed patients. YNHH’s interest in its patients’ health also required it to participate in various regulatory responses, and it needed to replace the drugs that had been contaminated.
Fraud Victims Should Take the “Broad View” in Seeking Restitution for Losses and Expenses Due to Fraud
Judge Glasser’s decision in United States v. Tighe provides a strong basis for victims of fraud to seek restitution for a broad array of monetary losses arising out of fraud and their involvement in addressing the consequences of the fraud and assisting in the government’s prosecution.