Thursday, June 25, 2015

Official Opposes California Meningitis Claim

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Calling the request "grossly late," an official in the administration of the liquidation plan for a defunct drug compounding firm is asking the court to reject a claim filed in behalf of a California woman who claims to be a victim of a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak.
In a filing made this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Massachusetts, the attorney for Paul D. Moore said the California woman had been informed of a Jan. 15, 2014 deadline for filing a claim in the bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center.
Citing records documenting the mailing of notices, Moore said the woman and her husband "were properly served with notice."
The admittedly late claim was filed in behelf of Lidia Tashima,  who said she had received an injection of fungus tainted steroid at the Sequoia Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Visalia, Calif. on Aug. 9, 2012.
Her claim is one of more than 3,200 filed against NECC after the Framingham, Mass. firm was blamed for a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that sickened 778 patients across the country, killing 76 of them.
Moore, who now has the title of "post conformation officer," previously served as trustee in the bankruptcy case.
Tashima had stated in court papers that she never had received notice of the deadline and asked that her claim be allowed despite the long past deadline.
But Moore, through his attorney, said Tashima had offered no evidence to refute the presumption that she was notified. The notification, according to the filings, was given on Oct. 16, 2013. Moore also noted that allowing Tashima's claim would mean that there would be that much less available for the thousands who filed their claims by the deadline.
In a related action this week the company hired to handle administrative duties during the bankruptcy, Donlin and Recano, submitted a claim for administrative expenses totaling $65, 203.
Dozens of additional claims are expected to be filed including attorneys fees.
Some $200 to $220 million is expected to be available for payments to victims of the

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Judge Mulling When, Where Meninigitis Cases To Be Heard

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A federal judge has asked for more arguments from both sides on when and where to hear the individual cases of the victims of a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel set deadlines Wednesday for the filing of briefs by attorneys for the outbreak victims and the health care providers being sued for their part in the outbreak which sickened 778 patients, killing 76 of them.
A special plea was offered for quick action in the case of Wayne Reed, a Tennessee man who lost his wife and sole provider in the outbreak. Reed suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease.
Reed's Nashville attorney George Nolan, told Zobel that his client would be happy to have his case heard in Boston, especially if that would speed up the process.
He also raised issues about which state laws should apply since the liability statutes in Massachusetts and Tennessee differ.
That choice, he said, could be critical in determining whether defendants could limit their liability based on the actions of other defendants. He said that under Tennessee law, for instance, such a limitation would not be allowed.
"We would hope to resolve these issues as soon as possible," he said.
Zobel ordered each side to file briefs on the issue.
"Our clients look forward to getting their day in court," said Mark Chalos of Nashville, who represents several victims.
Attorneys also updated Zobel on the developments in the now resolved bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center, the defunct Framingham, Mass. drug firm blamed for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hearing to Consider Trial Date for Brentwood Outbreak Victim

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A hearing is scheduled for tomorrow to consider a request to set an early trial date for the case of a Brentwood, Tenn. man who lost his wife and sole caretaker in a 2012 nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak.
The proposal to set a date for Wayne Reed's claims is one of several items proposed for consideration in an afternoon hearing in Boston before U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel.
Wayne's wife Diana died on Oct. 3, 2012 , less than two months after she began getting injections of a steroid for a chronic neck condition. The steroids injected at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in Nashville came from the now defunct New England Compounding Center.
State and federal regulators subsequently determined thousands of vials of fungus tainted methylprednisolone acetate were shipped to health facilities all over the country by NECC.
The latest count, court records show, list 778 patients who were stricken with fungal meningitis and other illnesses after being injected with the NECC drugs. Of those 76, including Diana  Reed, died.
An early trial date for Reed has been requested because he suffers from Lou Gehrig's Disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Diana Reed was his primary caregiver.
Lawyers for Saint Thomas have argued that the case is simply not ready for trial and they charge attorneys for victims are rushing to go forward with atypical cases with especially hard-hit victims.
Also up for possible argument are lists of so-called bellwether cases that would be heard before the vast majority of cases.
Lawyers also are expected to provide Zobel with an update on the recently approved liquidation plan for NECC that is expected to provide funds to all outbreak victims based on the severity of their illnesses, age, dependents and related factors.items
Other items up for possible action include motions to enforce or quash subpoenas. Among those is a motion by the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy to quash a subpoena. NECC was licensed by that agency.
Zobel is presiding over hundreds of civil cases which, like Reed's stem from the outbreak.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NECC Liquidation Plan Becomes Effective

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The liquidation plan for the bankrupt firm responsible for a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak has officially gone into effect.
Trustee Paul D. Moore filed notice this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Massachusetts that a required waiting period passed on June 4 and the plan Moore crafted is officially in effect. Only one objection had been filed to the plan.
In a related action federal prosecutors have moved to seize a boat and a BMW owned by Barry Cadden, one of the owners of the company subject to the bankruptcy.
The finalization of the plan clears the way for procedures to go forward to distribute up to $215 million, most of which will go to the hundreds of victims of the 2012 outbreak caused by fungus tainted steroids shipped across the country by the New England Compounding Center.
Even as that notice was filed, yet another victim, this one from California, stepped forward seeking a share of the bankruptcy proceeds.
A request to file a claim despite the passage of a deadline, was filed in behalf of Lidia Tashima who said she was injected with an NECC steroid by a physician from the Sequoia Orthopaedic and Spine Institute in Visalia, Calif.on Aug. 9, 2012.
In the filing Tashima's lawyer argued that she had never been informed of the deadline for filing a claim.
According to court papers, Tashima filed a suit against both the clinic and NECC. While the NECC claim was transferred to federal court, the clinic claim has continued in state court.
The filing states that Tashima and her husband suffered severe mental and physical anguish after learning that she was injected with a fungus tainted drug. It does not claim that she contracted fungal meningitis.
Her claim is one of only a few from California patients who contend they were victims of NECC's tainted drugs.
The $215 million amassed by Moore comes from payments by the owners of NECC, affiliated firms, insurance companies and firms that provided services to NECC.
Moore has stated that he is hopeful victims can begin to collect payments by the end of the calendar year.
The outbreak sickened 778 patients, killing 76 of them.
Cadden and 13 other owners and employees of NECC are facing criminal charges including several counts of second degree murder. All have entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Meningitis Outbreak Victims Suffer On As Bills Mount

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A woman in Minnesota still suffers memory loss and recurring joint pain.
For an Indiana man the headaches never stopped.
A Tennessee woman, one of the few known to have suffered a recurrence, is being pursued by bill collectors.
Going on three years from the disclosure of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak, the victims and their loved ones are scattered across the country, many still weakened from the original illness and still suffering after effects of an uncertain cure.
And those are the ones that lived.
Fueled by fungus laden vials of a steroid that promised at least temporary pain relief, the 2012 outbreak took the lives of 76 patients, including the wife and sole caretaker of Wayne Reed of Nashville, Tenn. who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease.
Though victims and survivors are in line to get some payments from the recently settled bankruptcy of the drug company blamed for the outbreak,  insurance companies will likely be seeking reimbursement for the bills they paid in behalf of those victims.
Bob Pinkstaff, 61, of Elberfeld, Ind. got his shot of tainted methylprednisolone acetate on Sept. 1, 2012 at an Evansville hospital and the headaches started soon afterward.
They never stopped.
Linda, his wife, said doctors first blamed the headaches on a test of his spinal fluid taken to determine if he had contracted fungal meningitis.  Eventually, however, subsequent tests showed traces of the
the same fungus implicated in the outbreak.
Now he is suffering not only from the after effects of the illness but worsening pain from the back condition that led him to seek the steroid shots in the first place.
And making matters worse, she said is the fact that when health providers learn that he is involved in litigation stemming from the outbreak, they refuse to treat him.
She said one nurse practitioner told the couple, "We don't do litigation patients."
On a recent trip to a WalMart, she said her husband just suddenly stopped and seemed to be having a seizure.
"He was just gone" she said."He doesn't deserve this."

Rosanna Bennington, a Minnesota resident, got her steroid shot at a pain clinic in Maple Grove on Sept. 10, 2012. It was her first and last.
 Within a week, she said she was so ill she couldn't work. Her symptoms included a headache, nausea, sweating and light sensitivity.
When she went to a local urgent care clinic, they sent her home concluding she was having a bout with the flu. She went back and was sent home again. The same thing happened when she went to a hospital emergency room.
Home again she had passed out when she got a call from the clinic where she got the shot called. She returned the call and was told she had been injected with a fungus laden steroid.
Back at the emergency room, she underwent a painful spinal tap, but was then told her fluid was clear and she was fine.
But she wasn't.
She was eventually placed on voriconazole, an anti-fungal drug with serious side effects. Today she still has not recovered, and, like Pinkstaff, she has had difficulty getting needed treatment.
She said her overall health has deteriorated significantly and is now worse than when she went to get the ill-fated injection.
"I have memory loss, loss of motor skills, speech problems and balance issues" she said.
As for the financial impact, Bennington said she has been unable to go back to work and went from earning $4,000 a month to getting a $200 a month check from the state of Minnesota.
Joan Peay, the Nashville woman who was hospitalized multiple times from the original bout with fungal meningitis, suffered a relapse a year later sending her back to the hospital.
"I was incoherent a whole month," she said.
Peay has assembled a listing of just some of her medical bills and they total over $100,000.
"We had to use some of our retirement savings to pay for my costs. That put an additional burden on us because we already had used $40,000 of our retirement savings after the 2010 flood."
Peay said they only learned after the devastating flood that, because of recently changed rules, they could have purchased flood insurance
George Peay, Joan's husband, said prescription drug costs were very high and the bills don't include the travel for multiple doctor and hospital visits.
"We absolutely had to take money out of retirement," he added.
On the advice of her attorney, Joan Peay said she did not pay the balance due on some of the hospital bills from her illness. As a result, the hospital turned the bills over to a collection agency.
As for her health, Peay said the illness has taken some 10 years off his wife's life.
"It's been really hard on her. She'll never be herself again," he said.
"I worry about down the road," he added. "That's what worries me."