Average payment corrected
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The trustee of a national fund to pay victims of the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak has issued checks to 462 of 2,340 who filed claims, according to a report filed today in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass.
The total value of the issued checks, according to Lynne Riley, the trustee, is $7.3 million. An additional 28 victims have been cleared for payment and checks are being issued to them, pushing the total number of checks to 490.
According to the data provided the average payment thus far was $15,828.64. The payments represent about half of what each victim can expect to receive when all of the funds are disbursed.
In a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel, Thomas Sobol, the lead attorney for plaintiffs, said 177 claims have been finally denied, while 1,981 have been either fully or partially approved. A small number of claims are still under appeal,
He said further information is needed for some of the remaining claims and if victims respond by Dec. 15, they can expect checks by the end of the year,
The victims' fund has been estimated to total $130 million to $157 million. It was amassed during the bankruptcy of the New England Compounding Center, the company blamed for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak which sickened 778 patients, killing 77 of them.
Nashville, Tenn. attorney Mark Chalos reported that all victims with claims against the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center have agreed to accept a negotiated settlement. He said an administrator has been hired and payments are expected to go out early next year.
The amount of that settlement has not been made public but is believed to be in excess of $20 million.
Zobel also got updates on the status of claims from victims in New Jersey, Maryland and Minnesota.
Sobol also presented a defense of the payment of $12.5 million in legal fees and expenses to lawyers who performed work in the case benefiting all of the victims. His motion called for those fees to be paid by the end of the year.
But George Nolan, a Nashville, Tenn. lawyer, cited long delays and complicated filing requirements that were delaying payments to many victims including clients of his firm. He said the fact that lawyers would be getting full payments while victims continued to wait was causing "a great deal of controversy" among many victims.
Zobel then proposed a compromise under which lawyers would get half of their fees by the end of the year, with the other half to be distributed sometime next year.
Sobol agreed to draw up a motion to implement her suggestion.