As a Missouri defective drug lawyer, I keep an eye on drug manufacturing issues that affect us here in the Midwest. So I was interested to see an Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision about a man who claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on a company making impure, low-quality drugs. In Bazzi v. Tyco Healthcare Group, Ali Bazzi sued Tyco for wrongful termination that contradicted Missouri public policy. Though the stated reason for his firing had to do with his conduct toward another employee, he contended that he was actually fired either for blowing the whistle or for refusing to validate drugs he felt were not up to quality standards. The Eighth Circuit ultimately upheld the district court’s summary judgment decision in favor of Tyco.
Bazzi had been employed at Tyco for 26 years, and was an organic chemist and manager of quality assurance engineering when he was fired. His job was to oversee production and manufacturing of certain drugs; validating them means checking on their quality, purity and federal compliance. For more than a year prior to the firing, Bazzi had been verbally raising concerns about violations in the manufacturing of a drug called naltrexone hydrochloride, which is used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. However, he had not brought them up to his supervisees, a hotline or to federal regulators. In the summer of 2007, he asked supervisee Marvin Darling to prepare a report on the last few batches of adulterated naltrexone. Darling aired those concerns at a September meeting at which Bazzi apparently did not speak. Bazzi testified that unnamed Tyco employees warned him that the memo could get Tyco in trouble with the FDA; this was struck as hearsay. In late October of that year, Bazzi was caught on videotape entering a colleague’s office, taking a pay stub from her chair and ripping a notice from her wall; he lied about it when initially confronted. This was the stated reason for letting him go.
About a year later, Bazzi sued Tyco for wrongful termination against Missouri public policy, alleging that he was really fired because he raised concerns about improper validation of naltrexone. Tyco moved for summary judgment, claiming there was no genuine issue of material fact because Bazzi failed to establish whether his belief that Tyco violated FDA rules was objectively reasonable; that he had brought his concerns to a supervisor; or that he refused outright to perform an illegal act. Bazzi appealed to the Eighth Circuit — but applying Missouri law, the appeals court affirmed the summary judgment order. In order to prove a wrongful discharge in Missouri, the court said, employees must show they were fired for refusing to violate the law or clear public policy; or for reporting serious misconduct. The Eighth started by ruling Bazzi had not established whether Tyco was breaking the law or clear public policy. In order to show this, Bazzi needed to submit evidence of what Tyco allegedly did to the naltrexone and how it violated the Food and Drug Act, possibly with expert testimony. That did not happen; the Eighth said Bazzi had offered only his unsubstantiated opinions. This was enough as a threshold issue to get warrant summary judgment, the court said. Thus, it upheld the summary judgment order in Tyco’s favor.
As a southern Illinois dangerous drug attorney, I hope for the sake of the public that Bazzi is wrong about these drugs being adulterated. In my work, I have seen ample evidence that drug manufacturers prefer to cover up mistakes rather than correct them, because correcting them costs money and can lead to a public black eye that costs even more money. That’s how KV Pharmaceutical here in St. Louis ended up in serious criminal trouble and nearly closed, and how sloppy practices at Wisconsin’s Triad Group caused bacterial contamination that allegedly injured several patients and killed a toddler in Texas. If Bazzi did blow the whistle on potentially adulterated drugs, he should be commended for his willingness to do so, not fired. As a St. Louis pharmaceutical liability attorney, I know drug companies caught knowingly selling unsafe drugs tend to pay a lot in financial damages in the end, particularly if their products hurt many people.
If you believe a contaminated or dangerously designed drug caused injuries, illness or death in your family, you should talk to Carey, Danis & Lowe about a lawsuit. To tell us your story and learn more about your rights, send us an email or call 1-877-678-3400 today.
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