Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Key Hearing May Be By Phone
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The lead attorney for victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak has filed an emergency motion requesting that a key hearing set for next week be held by phone and not in the judge's Boston, Mass. courtroom.
The Aug. 16 hearing will be focused on efforts to negotiate a global settlement of claims for reimbursement for the federally funded Medicare and Medicaid programs.
U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel has asked for representative of the U.S. Justice Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to participate in the session. CMS is seeking reimbursement for the money it paid to provide medical treatment to victims.
The agreement is a critical element in efforts to finally provide outbreak victims with payments from a $200 million trust fund. Without a settlement the trustee has stated that none of the $200 million can be released.
In the motion filed today, lead attorney Thomas Sobol, citing travel costs, stated that vacations and other conflicts would make it difficult for all parties to attend.
"In lead counsel's view conducting the hearing on the 16th by telephone is the most efficient path forward," Sobol wrote.
"Permitting counsel to choose whether to attend in person may inadvertently suggest that appearance in person is preferable or advantageous," he added.
Meanwhile attorneys for victims in Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan have filed motions in advance of the hearing asking Zobel to intervene and order the release of at least some of the money.
The trust fund was created in the bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center, the firm blamed for the deadly outbreak.
State and federal regulators concluded that NECC shipped thousands of vials of fungus loaded steroids to health facilities around the country. The outbreak sickened some 778 patients, killing 77 of them.