By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Extensive filings in a Massachusetts bankruptcy case are giving new details on a complex plan to compensate victims of a deadly nationwide 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
The 58-page compensation plan filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield, Mass. shows that age, the number of dependents and the length of hospitalization are among multiple factors that are likely to be used in determining whether and how much compensation will be awarded to victims or their survivors.
By the latest count, court documents show, 778 patients were sickened and 76 of those died after treatment with the tainted spinal steroid produced by the defunct New England Compounding Center.
An outline of the compensation plan had been filed previously but the recent filings provide far greater detail.
The proposed plan also would provide compensation to victims of the 2012 outbreak who did not contract fungal meningitis and were not treated with the fungus tainted spinal steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, that caused most of the deaths and illnesses.
Under the plan patients who were treated with doses from six specific lots of other NECC products, including bacitracin, triaminoclone and cardio plegia, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found were contaminated with bacteria, can qualify for compensation.
The filing also spells out the proof victims will be required to provide to be eligible for compensation. Medical records and diagnoses by physicians can be used. Victims can also qualify by showing that they are included on official lists of victims compiled by state health officials during the outbreak.
For the survivors of victims who died in the outbreak, death certificates with the correct cause of death will be necessary.
Under the plan there will be seven basic categories of victims ranging from those who died in the outbreak to those who suffered joint infections. Survivors of deceased victims will get the most points while those suffering little or no illness will get less.
Once placed in a particular category, victims can be awarded additional points based on 20 different factors. For instance victims under age 65 will get extra points as will victims who are married or have dependent children. Still other factors include the loss of income due to the illness. Tax returns can be used to show a drop in annual income, according to the filing.
Also detailed in court papers is an appeal process for victims not satisfied with their point award which will be overseen by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth P. Neiman.
Overseeing the compensation process will be a national settlement administrator who will ultimately decide how much compensation will be provided for each point. Court filings show some $135 million is expected to be available for transfer to a trust fund to compensate victims and creditors.
The plan is subject to court approval.