Sunday, December 27, 2015
Victims Await Word on Awards, Timing
By Walter F. Roche Jr
As 2015 comes to a close with no payments, victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak are still awaiting word on when they will be getting payments from a $200 plus million trust fund.
Interviews with victims and their attorneys show that predictions range from three to six months before any actual payments may be forthcoming.
In fact, victims and their attorneys don't even know with any certainty how much of an award they can expect.
The year is ending without any payments despite predictions by some that checks could go out before Dec. 31, 2015.
In one recent court session, Fredric Elllis, one lawyer for the victims, estimated that survivors of victims who died in the outbreak could expect payments ranging from $175,000 to $200,000, with that total being spread over two separate checks.
He stressed the figure was just an estimate.
Victims have been informed that the payments will be computed on a point system based on the severity of their illnesses. But how much each point will translate to in dollars and cents is still not known.
Dennis O'Brien, a Tennessee survivor of the outbreak, said he is hoping to get an idea of how much of a payment to expect within about a month.
He said he expects an initial payment in winter or early spring and the balance at a later date after figures are finalized.
Rosanna Bennington, a Minnesota victim, said she heard from her lawyers about three weeks ago.
"The only thing that they had to say was that they did not expect us to get a settlement until some time in 2016, but they had no idea when," she wrote, adding "We have no idea what the point value is in relationship to dollars
Predictions from victims' attorneys on a payment timetable range from three to six months for an initial payment.
"The latest information we have heard is distributions will start in the first half of 2016," Nashville attorney Mark Chalos wrote in an email response to questions.
Another attorney expressed hope that initial payments could come in the first quarter of 2016, while yet another said he was hopeful for more definitive information over the coming week.
Requests for information from Lynne F. Riley, the attorney overseeing the trust fund were unsuccessful.
Paul D. Moore, the former trustee in the bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center, recently reported that all approved payments to other creditors had been paid.
Another uncertainty for victims is the amount of any award that could be claimed by health insurance carriers that covered the cost of their care.
Recently four U.S. Senate members wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, asking her to waive any claims for reimbursement for Medicare recipients. Thus far there has been no reply. A waiver would affect the majority of the outbreak victims.
NECC has been named as the source for thousands of vials of fungus tainted steroids injected into the spines and joints of unsuspecting patients.
Federal court records show 778 patients were sickened in the outbreak with 76 dying.
Meanwhile victims like Bennington are still suffering from the after effects of their illnesses.
"I am disabled from this event and my back issues," Bennington wrote. "I am struggling to get by day by day. We the victims of this event are financially crippled."