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Insurer for Broad Institute suing MIT over infected mice

An insurer for a research center affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is suing the school, alleging that MIT supplied the center with infected mice that contaminated its laboratory equipment.

The New Jersey-based Federal Insurance Co., an insurer for the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, filed the lawsuit against MIT on Wednesday in federal court in Boston.

In a three-page civil complaint, the insurer said it is seeking unspecified damages in excess of $75,000, accusing MIT of “negligence, carelessness, gross negligence and/or negligent omission” when it provided tainted mice to the Broad Institute for research purposes.

The institute is a prominent biomedical research center in Cambridge staffed by scientists from Harvard and MIT.


According to the complaint, the institute learned in June 2014 that the mice were infected with pinworms. Pinworms are thin, white parasites that can cause itching, restless sleep, nausea, and abdominal pain in humans, particularly children, according to a Mayo Clinic website.

Lee McGuire, a spokesman for the institute, said in a statement that “there is no disagreement whatsoever between Broad and MIT. When an issue arose, MIT completely addressed it, and Broad was completely satisfied with its response. Until the Globe called us, we were not aware that the insurance company planned to file this claim, nor do we have any role in that process.”

After the institute submitted a claim for the equipment damage to Federal Insurance, the company “paid the fair and reasonable value and cost of the resulting damage, as covered under the applicable policy,” the civil complaint says.

Court papers did not specify how much Federal Insurance paid to cover the claim, but McGuire said the settlement was completed in October 2014 for approximately $111,000.

He said the institute’s understanding was that a third-party vendor shipped the mice to MIT, and that it expected Federal Insurance to file a claim against that company to recover costs. McGuire said he did not have the name of the vendor. Attempts to reach MIT and a lawyer for the insurer for comment were unsuccessful.


Sacha Pfeiffer of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.