Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Virginia Attorney Wants Key Hearing in Courtroom

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

Victims' lawyers are asking a federal judge to deny a motion to hold a key court session next week on distributions from a $200 million trust fund by telephone only.
In a three-page filing today a Virginia attorney representing victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak said that holding the Aug. 16 hearing in a Boston, Mass. courtroom would present no financial hardship.
J. Scott Sexton told Judge Rya Zobel he had already purchased a nonrefundable round trip plane ticket for $306 to attend the session.
He said he did so after being told by a court clerk that a motion he and other Virginia lawyers filed could be heard at the Tuesday session and could be argued either by telephone or in person.
The motion filed in behalf of 154 Virginia victims asks Zobel to issue an order freeing up a $200 million victims' trust fund so that distributions can be finally made to victims of the deadly outbreak. Similar motions have been filed in behalf of victims from Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan.
Earlier this week the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the case filed an emergency motion asking Zobel to require the session be held by telephone only. Thomas Sobol argued that  travel costs and schedule conflicts made a telephone conference the best choice.
Sobol also argued that allowing some parties to appear in person while others participated by phone might inadvertently leave the impression that those appearing in person held an advantage.
"No undue financial burden will come to the Virginia claimants as a result of appearing in court for the hearing Aug. 16," Sexton wrote in rebuttal, adding that his $306 plane ticket cannot be canceled.
Another key issue to be discussed at the Tuesday session is the status of a so-called global settlement of reimbursement claims by the federal agency running the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Sobol filed a copy of that proposal with the court last week.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is seeking to recoup at least part of the costs it paid for the treatment of outbreak victims.

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