Sunday, March 22, 2015

Key Deposition Set In Meningitis Outbreak Suits

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A key figure in the fungal meningitis outbreak will face questioning tomorrow as dozens of suits filed in behalf of victims inch forward.
Scheduled for a deposition by lawyers for those Nashville area victims is Dr. John Culclasure, the physician who administered injections of a spinal steroid to dozens of patients at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in 2012.
Culclasure, who has been named as a defendant in many cases, has denied any responsibility for the fungal meningitis that many of his patients suffered.
Depositions, which are not open to the public, already have been taken from two other officials at the Nashville clinic and of officials of the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville, where additional outbreak victims were injected.
The 2012 outbreak sickened 778 patients, killing 76 of them.
The questioning of Culclasure comes at the same time victims of the outbreak are being asked to approve a bankruptcy plan for the New England Compounding Center, the now defunct firm that shipped fungus tainted methylprednisolone acetate to health facilities across the country.
Dennis O'Brien of Jamestown, Tenn. said in an interview that he hasn't actually received a ballot yet but he was informed both by his attorney and a court notice that a ballot would soon be on the way.
O'Brien, one of the victims treated at the Nashville clinic, said he intends to vote in favor of the plan that would provide an estimated $215 million to the hundreds of victims or their survivors.
Nashville attorney Mark Chalos said that he expected his clients would be getting their ballots imminently. And while he said he believes the settlement is fair, he said it will be up to the individual victims to decide whether to approve the plan.
Other Nashville area attorneys said their clients already had received their ballots. Several victims contacted also reported their ballots had arrived.
The plan includes nearly $50 million from the owners of NECC along with payments from insurance companies for NECC and related companies. The settlement fund got a last minute boost of $30.5 million from UniFirst, a  company on contract to provide cleaning services for NECC 's sterile production facilities.
Nearly $60 million of the $215 million will be set aside for victims treated at health facilities in New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.
Though a settlement has been reached with those facilities where patients were injected, a settlement has not been reached with the Saint Thomas clinic.
The ballots must be submitted by May 15 at 4 p.m. A hearing on the plan will be held four days later. If the plan is approved victims could get payments by the end of the year, some three years after the outbreak.

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