Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Deadline Looms For Meningitis Outbreak Victims
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak have only till Friday to submit detailed data to back up their claims to some $200 million in a trust fund amassed in a lengthy bankruptcy case.
The deadline, which was set by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Henry J. Boroff, requires those claims to actually be in the hands of court officials by the Friday deadline.
The claimants are victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak which sickened 778 patients across the country, killing 76 of them. Some $50 million in the trust fund money came from the owners of the defunct New England Compounding Center, the Massachusetts firm blamed by regulators for the outbreak.
Several attorneys representing victims of the outbreak who were contacted this week reported that all the paperwork for their clients had been submitted.
But some of the victims also have filed for extensions on the Friday deadline. They include a North Carolina woman, Carolyn Wilson, who doesn't have an attorney.
She, like several other so-called pro-se claimants, have been getting an assist from two Boston University Law School students, who were recruited for the task by one of their professors, Kevin Outterson.
Lewis Osterman, who has just begun his second year at the law school, said he and a colleague, Kristen Rogerson, spent the summer assisting some two dozen victims in putting together the needed paperwork.
Among the items required, he noted, are medical records showing that the victim does indeed fall into one of the authorized categories.
Under a plan approved by the court, victims will be awarded points based upon a variety of factors including the severity of the illness they suffered after being injected with fungus infused steroids shipped from NECC.
Osterman said most of the victims he assisted were in "Category Six." Victims in that category were injected with the tainted steroid but did not suffer spinal meningitis. They did, however, suffer some ill effects such as headaches and dizziness.
He said a smaller number fell into "Category 7." Those victims did get injected with the fungus laden steroid but had no ill effects.
Osterman said that while he knows what category the victims he assisted fall into, he doesn't know how much, if anything, they will get from the trust fund.
"No one knows," he said. "It's really hard to say."
Osterman, a Colorado resident, said the victim from North Carolina also needed assistance signing a waiver under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA.
He said that while the forms and process were quite complicated, many of those victims he dealt with, had done everything correctly.
"They just needed a reassurance that everything was okay," he said.