NY drug co., NJ hospital sued over man's poisoning

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - August 5, 2011

On Jan. 14, the day they were to finalize their divorce, Wang went to a Princeton, N.J., hospital with abdominal pain and numbness in his hands and feet. He told hospital staff he feared his wife was poisoning him - but was allegedly deemed paranoid by the hospital staff, according to a lawsuit his relatives filed this week.

His wife, chemist Tianle Li, is charged with fatally poisoning her 39-year-old husband, who died at University Medical Center on Jan. 26. She pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, and remains jailed in Middlesex County, N.J., on $4.5 million bail.

Wang's relatives sued the hospital along with Li's employer, New York City-based pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she allegedly got the poison sometimes dubbed "the inheritance powder."

They believe that Li, 40, upset about the divorce, slipped the tasteless, odorless rat poison Thallium into her husband's food or drink over several months, notably in a hospital visit hours before he fell unconscious on Jan. 23. And they claim Bristol-Myers Squibb should have had tighter controls over the deadly metal, which has been banned for consumer use since 1972.

"In the world that we now live in, for anybody, no matter who they are, to be able to have access to something like that ... something that can be used to kill, is astonishing," said lawyer Brian Fritz of Philadelphia, who filed the suit on the relatives' behalf in Camden County, N.J.

The plaintiffs include Wang's brother, Xiaobing, who lives in China; his cousin Weiguo Wang of Washington state; and co-administrators of his estate.

The lawsuit alleges that Bristol-Myers Squibb documented Li exhibiting a temper and erratic behavior on the job. The suit also claims that another employee had gotten a restraining order against Li and the company was aware of that.

A company spokeswoman declined comment on the lawsuit, but offered condolences to Wang's family. Spokeswoman Laura Hortas says Li has been fired. A spokeswoman for Princeton HealthCare System, which operates the hospital, also declined comment.

The couple had a son, now 2, who is staying with his maternal grandmother, Fritz said. Wang, who worked in New York City, had an apartment in Jersey City. But he was primarily living in the couple's home in Monroe, N.J., to help care for their child, Fritz said.

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