Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Checks Mailed to 1,313 Outbreak Victims
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Initial checks from a national trust fund have been mailed to 1,313 victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, according to a report filed today in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass.
The report by Lynne F. Riley, the trustee of the victims' fund, also states that a total of 2,005 claims by victims have been fully or partially approved. A total of 310 claims have been denied.
She said payments issued thus far total $51.9 million.
The national fund, with an estimated value of $130 million to $157 million, was amassed in the bankruptcy case of the New England Compounding Center, the Framingham, Mass. firm blamed for the deadly outbreak.
Riley reported that an additional 134 checks have been issued to some of the same victims who were treated at certain clinics that have reached separate settlements.
The report was filed as U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel held a monthly status conference on the civil litigation stemming from the outbreak which sickened 778 patients, killing 76 of them.
Michael Fencer, who represents Riley in the case, said that 127 appeals have been decided and only one remains pending.
He said that 12 claims have been held up due to a dispute with Tennessee Blue Cross. Another 30 have been delayed pending an agreement with another insurance carrier.
Fredric Ellis, an attorney representing outbreak victims, told Zobel it will be at least another three months before the trustee will be able to send out the second set of checks to victims. The checks currently being issued represent about half of the total each victim is expected to receive.
During the hearing Chris Tardio, attorney for the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said his client wants the details of a settlement agreement with the more than 100 patients who sued the facility kept secret.
Gerard Stranch, representing the victims, indicated agreement with the request and Zobel said she would approve the request to seal the record, which includes the amount of the settlement. It has been reported to be in excess of $20 million.
On another issue Stranch and Tardio argued over a motion by the Specialty Surgery Center in Crossville, Tenn. to assess part of the blame for the outbreak on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy.
Tardio said that both agencies had notice that NECC was operating outside of the law but they did not step in.
He said both agencies were notified by the Colorado Board of Pharmacy that NECC was selling drugs in that state without complying with the law.
"They dropped the ball," Tardio said of the two government agencies.
Stranch said there was not a single case in any state in which a defendant was able to reduce its liability by shifting the blame to parties not even involved in the case.
Zobel said she would issue a ruling on the matter.