By Walter F. Roche Jr.
More than 20 of the remaining civil suits stemming from the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak may be headed from a federal court in Boston back to the state and federal courts where they originated.
In papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston, lawyers for victims of the outbreak proposed that attorneys for the victims and defendants in some 28 cases be given deadlines for indicating whether they want to take their cases back to the state or federal court where the claims were first filed or continue litigation before U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel.
According to the proposed order, a majority of the attorneys involved in the cases already have indicated they would not object to a return to their home courts.
The proposal would not apply to suits filed against the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center and the Howell Allen Clinic in Nashville, Tenn. or the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville, Tenn.
The cases, which were consolidated in Boston some three years, ago stem from the fungal meningitis outbreak which sickened 778 patients across the country, killing 76 of them. The outbreak was traced to fungus infested vials of a spinal steroid produced by the now defunct New England Compounding Center.
The cases under consideration for remand involve clinics facing only one to four claims.
"The most prudent course of action," the filing states, "is to remand cases originally filed in state courts and transfer cases filed in federal court back to their home districts."
Under the proposal attorneys in 26 of the affected cases would be required to state their preferences by June 16. Zobel is scheduled to consider the issue at a June 22 hearing.
Lawyers for victims treated at the Premier Orthopedics in Vineland, NJ and the Box Hill Surgery Center in Abingdon, MD. would have until July 16 to state their preferences. Those cases, according to the filing, are more advanced than the others.
The proposed partial unraveling of some of the fungal meningitis cases comes as the scheduled start-up of so-called bellwether cases involving the Nashville clinic are nearing trial. The first case is now set for mid-August.
The filing states that some attorneys when first polled simply wanted more time to confer with their clients before committing to a remand.
In addition to the Box Hill and Premier cases, the defendants in the other 26 cases include Cincinnati Pain Management Consultants in Ohio, Encino Outpatient Surgery Center in California, OSMC Outpatient Surgery in Indiana, Ambulatory Care Center in Indiana, BKC Pain Specialists in Ohio, Ocean State Pain Management in Rhode Island and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nev.