Thursday, September 10, 2015
Judge Approves Order on Names of Tennessee Meningitis Victims
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A federal judge has approved an order that will permit lawyers for victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak to get the official list of victims from the Tennessee Health Department.
U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel signed the order late Thursday following a hearing in which plaintiffs' attorneys promised to "clean up" the language of the protective order that would allow the state to provide such a list.
Zobel had questioned the wording of the original request, noting that the Tennessee Health Department was not currently a party to the case before her.
The exchange with Nashville attorney Ben Gestel came during a 50 minute status conference in the hundreds of cases merged before Zobel.
Gastel said following the hearing that he already had filed an amended version of the request. Her approval quickly followed.
All the cases before Zobel stem from the 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that sickened 778 patients across the country killing 76 of them.
According to the official count of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 153 Tennessee patients were sickened by fungus laden steroids and 16 of them died. The steroids were shipped to health facilities across the country by the now defunct New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.
Mark Chalos, also a Nashville attorney, gave Zobel a rundown of other cases from the outbreak that are now in state courts across the country.
In Michigan, he reported, 120 plaintiffs' cases were proceeding as a class action against one clinic and those cases could go to trial late next month. There are 311 claims against Michigan Pain Specialists and 120 cases in Indiana courts.
Chalos said there were a smaller number of cases in Maryland where cases must first be assessed by a panel before actual filing in court.
Chalos also reported that plaintiffs and defendants in the Tennessee cases have come up with a list of 15 possible cases that would serve as so-called bellweather trials. Eight cases were proposed by plaintiffs and eight by defendants. One case was on both lists.
Chris Tardio, one of the attorneys for the Tennessee clinics, told Zobel that depositions have been scheduled for some former employees of NECC, but officials of the U.S. Attorneys office had requested a hold on those sessions.
Zobel asked Tardio to file a response to the U.S. Attorney's motion and promised she would act on it before the depositions are scheduled.