Friday, August 5, 2016
More Victims Demanding Fund Release
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Lawyers for another hundred victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak are calling on a federal judge to force the immediate release of payments from trust funds locked up in negotiations with federal agencies.
Representatives of outbreak victims in Indiana and southwest Michigan say their clients have already waited too long for promised payments and are asking U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel to order a court appointed trustee to begin distributing the money within 30 days.
The six-page motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass. is the third such motion to be filed this week. Others were filed in behalf of victims in Tennessee and Virginia.
The growing frustration comes as the fourth anniversary of the deadly fungal meningitis is fast approaching. The outbreak, triggered by thousand of vials of fungus ridden steroids, sickened 778 patients across the country, killing 77 of them. It first became public in September 2012.
The motions filed this week stem from the lack of a final agreement with federal officials over how much from a $200 million victims trust fund will go to reimburse the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs for the medical bills it paid in behalf of victims.
Citing the long wait for reimbursement, the motion filed Friday states, "There are claimants who have encountered financial distress, in addition to severe physical/medical hardships, as a result of injuries from the contaminated epidural injections," the new motion states, noting that some victims died.
Citing repeated promises that an agreement was imminent, the filing adds, "None of those have proven true."
The motion asks Zobel to order the trust fund administrator to distribute the fund to each victims lawyers within 30 days.
In the alternative the motion asks Zobel to order the U.S. Justice Department to make an immediate response to the requested approval of a proposed settlement with the Centers for Medicare Services.
Like the two prior motions, the one filed Friday also asks Zobel to order CMS to allow victims to formally file their claims and have them processed.
Zobel already has scheduled a session on Aug. 16 to get a report from plaintiffs' lawyers and federal officials on the release of the $200 million.
In another development this week, the lead attorney for outbreak victims filed a copy of a proposed Medicare/Medicaid settlement that still awaits U.S. Justice Department approval.
Under that proposal victims would have any awards from the trust fund reduced by 10.5 to 21.5 percent to reimburse the federal government.
Victims also will have to hand over a share of any awards to the attorneys who have represented them in the longstanding court battle.