Thursday, July 28, 2016
Agreement Signed on Nashville Clinic Cases
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed by all parties that could lead to a settlement of the legal claims of more than 100 Nashville, Tenn. victims of the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, a federal judge was told today.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel in her Boston courtroom, Nashville attorney Mark Chalos said the memorandum of understanding had been signed and individual attorneys were now talking with their clients to seek their approval.
The settlement, if finalized and approved by the court, would end some 110 suits filed against the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center and related parties. The suits were filed in behalf of victims and their survivors who were sickened after getting spinal injections at the clinic.
"We are moving as fast as we can," Chalos told Zobel, adding that he was aware that a 90-day deadline was in place.
"We remain hopeful," he concluded.
The details of the memorandum were not disclosed and attorneys involved said they were barred from discussing any details.
Gerard Stranch, one of the victims' attorneys, confirmed that the memorandum, if finally approved, would settle all the pending Nashville clinic cases.
He said he could not comment further.
The disclosure was the strongest indication yet that an imminent settlement could end litigation that dates back nearly four years. The first hint came earlier this summer when Zobel announced that she was putting the Nashville cases on hold for 90 days as settlement talks appeared to be bearing fruition.
Saint Thomas officials, meanwhile, disclosed recently in a bond issue filing that they did not expect the pending suits to have a significant impact on the health care firm's finances.
Just when victims will be getting payments either from a Saint Thomas settlement or from a $200 million victims trust fund remains unclear.
During yesterday's court session, Thomas Sobol reported that a near final agreement was in place with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the amount of money that will be taken from the settlement for reimbursement of health care claims it paid for outbreak victims.
That agreement must be in place before any of the $200 million can be released.
Though Sobol had previously said checks to nearly 1,200 victims would come in August, he told Zobel today that a delay till September was possible.
Zobel then suggested that she convene a session with federal officials next month when the court is scheduled to hold another session.
Sobol agreed to try to set up such a session for Aug. 16.
"I'll rely on you to set it up," Zobel said.
Sobol said talks were also progressing on the settlement of liens from the Medicaid program and private insurance companies.
The 2012 outbreak has been blamed on a now defunct Massachusetts drug compounding firm that shipped thousands of fungus loaded vials of spinal steroids to healthcare providers across the country.
The outbreak sickened 778 patients killing 77 of them. In Tennessee 153 patients were sickened and 16 died.
Though most of the Tennessee victims were treated at the Nashville clinic, other victims had been treated at facilities in Oak Ridge and Crossville.