Tuesday, August 2, 2016

TN Outbreak Victims Seek Payment Orders

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Charging that there is no justifiable reason for the lengthy delay, attorneys for Tennessee victims of the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak are asking a federal judge to order a court appointed trustee to release payments to at least some of those victims.
In an eight-page motion filed today, the victims' lawyers said some of their clients have died while waiting for payments while others have been forced to leave their homes and suffered other hardships.
The motion, similar to one filed Monday in behalf of 154 Virginia victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak, asks U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel to act on the petition at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 16 in Boston, Mass.
The motion charges that actions by tort trustee Lynne Riley and prolonged negotiations with the federal government have made it impossible for victims to even find out basic information on how much of any award from a $200 million fund would have to be paid back to Medicare.
Citing the multi-layered process, the motion states "it will be months before many Tennessee claimants receive any settlement money. There is no justifiable reason for the delay."
The motion was filed by Nashville attorney William Leader along with other lawyers representing Tennessee victims of the 2012 outbreak.
The 2012 outbreak, which is nearing its fourth anniversary, sickened 778 patients across the country killing 77 of them. The $200 million tort trust fund includes payments from the former owners of the Massachusetts drug compounding firm blamed for the outbreak. The company shipped thousands of fungus loaded steroids to healthcare providers across the country.
According to the motion, payments are even being blocked  to victims who are not on Medicare and can prove that there are no outstanding liens on their awards.
The motion asks Zobel to "order the trustee to make immediate distributions to the Tennessee claimants who are not Medicare beneficiaries" and can demonstrate there are no outstanding liens.
The motion also faults actions of the lawyers steering committee representing victims in the ongoing litigation in Zobel's court with adding to the delays.
That committee has been seeking a so-called global settlement of Medicare liens, but a tentative agreement has yet to gain final approval.
In addition to seeking immediate payments to non-Medicare victims, the motion asks Zobel to order the federal government to issue conditional payment letters so victims will be able to decide whether to opt in to the global settlement or negotiate an individual settlement.

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