Friday, April 7, 2017

Four Maryland Outbreak Cases Go Forward

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

A federal judge in Massachusetts has given the go-ahead for four court cases brought by Maryland victims or survivors of deceased victims of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak to go forward.
In a brief order this week U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel picked the four cases - two filed by living victims and two by survivors of victims- to move forward for trial beginning in October.
The four cases were among eight selected by attorneys for the victims and for the Box Hill Surgery Center, one of a handful of Maryland clinics where victims of the deadly outbreak were injected with fungus laden methylprednisolone acetate.
The field will be further narrowed to two cases before the scheduled Oct. 30 trial date. The cases have been designated as so-called bellwethers, hopefully leading to templates for the settlement of other Maryland cases.
The two cases in which the victims died were filed by the survivors of John C. Millhausen and Brenda Rozek. Some details of Rozek's death became public during the recent criminal trial of Barry J. Cadden, the one time president of the defunct New England Compounding Center, the company blamed for the deadly outbreak.
Cadden was charged with second degree murder in Rozek's death, but the jury acquitted him of that and 24 other second degree murder charges. He was convicted on racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud charges.
The owner of the surgery center, Ritu Bhambhani, was one of the prosecution witnesses at Cadden's recent trial.
The two other Maryland suits were filed by Belinda Dreisch and Teresa Davis. Both were injected twice, once in July and once in August of 2012, at the Box Hill Surgery Center in Abingdon, Md. They subsequently were sickened and hospitalized.
According to Zobel's order, one of the cases involving living victims will go to trial on the Oct. 30 date, to be followed by one of the death cases.
The owner of the surgery center, Ritu Bhambhani, was one of the prosecution witnesses at Cadden's recent trial.
Under Zobel's order, discovery, including depositions and gathering evidence, will proceed in all four of the designated cases.
Court filings show that some 778 patients across the country were sickened in the outbreak and 77 of them died. According to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Maryland patients were sickened in the outbreak and three died.
The CDC, however, stopped counting a year after the outbreak. The subsequent criminal investigation turned up 12 additional cases across the country in which patients died.

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