Monday, August 22, 2016
Master Settlement Agreement Offered for TN Victims
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
A master settlement agreement has been proposed for Nashville, Tenn. area victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak but paperwork has apparently stalled a final settlement.
In a two-page report to a federal judge filed Monday, lawyers for victims and the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center said that while a settlement has been proposed by the plaintiff/victims, the clinic and related parties say they are awaiting further paperwork before going forward.
The report does not provide any details of the proposed settlement.
The report goes to U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel who is scheduled to hold a session on the Nashville and other plaintiffs' cases Wednesday.
As reported previously, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding several weeks ago on some 110 cases and subsequently a master settlement was proposed.
But lawyers for the Saint Thomas clinic and related parties said they were awaiting conditional payment letters before processing further. Those letters, which CMS has thus far refused to release, would disclose how much the Medicare or Medicaid program paid for an individual victim's care.
The report does state that a neutral settlement administrator has been hired and efforts are underway to develop a distribution plan if and when a final settlement is in place.
Recently Nashville attorney William Leader filed a motion requesting that Zobel set a deadline for the completion of negotiations with the Saint Thomas parties. In his motion he cited the apparent lack of progress thus far.
Leader's motion is likely to be raised in Wednesday's hearing.
Zobel already has set a Wednesday deadline for an agreement between victims' lawyers and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on how much of a separate $200 million victims' trust fund will go to reimburse the federal program for amounts it paid for the care of outbreak victims.
At a session last week the Justice Department attorney representing CMS expressed doubts about reaching a quick agreement. Zobel, however, urged both sides to do their best.
"Let's be optimistic and see what you can do," Zobel said at the close of the 45-minute session.