By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Victims of the 2012 national fungal meningitis outbreak will soon be getting information packets on how to submit their claims to share in a $130-$157 million national trust fund.
Some details of how victims can submit their claims and a tentative schedule for actual payments were spelled out today in a session before U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel in federal court in Boston.
Kristen Johnson, one of the attorneys for the hundreds of outbreak victims, said that while she was admittedly being optimistic, victims could begin collecting payments by the end of the calendar year.
She told Zobel that victims will have until Oct. 2 to formally submit claims and then those overseeing the trust fund will be able to determine how a detailed point system will be utilized to determine the value of each claim.
Under a plan already filed with the court points will be allocated based on the severity and length of illnesses suffered by the victims.
The funding for victims will come from owners and insurers of the New England Compounding Center, the defunct Massachusetts firm blamed for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, Johnson said.
She said the funding could jump from $130 million to $157 million, depending on whether anticipated tax refunds materialize.
She said an additional $59 million would be available only to those victims who were injected with fungus tainted steroids at specific clinics in North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey.
Victims injected at other clinics, like the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in Nashville, Tenn., will collect a partial settlement from the national trust fund but then have to wait for resolution of any claim filed against the treating clinic.
"All victims will get something by the end of the year," she said.
Johnson noted that despite some initial opposition, ultimately all parties agreed to the plan drawn up by NECC Trustee Paul D. Moore.
Johnson noted that debate is continuing over the schedule and deadlines for gathering evidence from all interested parties in the remaining litigation.
Among other issues is whether the claims of victims will be decided under Massachusetts law or the state laws where the victims were treated.
Johnson noted that Tennessee and some other states have laws that call for the blame to be shared under the concept of comparative negligence.
She also noted that a motion is pending for one Tennessee case to be tried ahead of the others. That case was filed in behalf of Wayne Reed, a disabled Nashville man whose wife and sole caretaker was a victim of the outbreak which took the lives of 76 patients in more than 20 states.
That motion is scheduled to be argued next month.