Three-quarters of a $200 million settlement fund have been distributed in multidistrict litigation (MDL) that once numbered 733 cases against health care providers that administered, but did not concoct, contaminated epidural painkillers linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak. Only one claim remained unresolved. Lawyers told a Boston federal judge that about $150 million has been paid to next of kin and patients who were injured or died after being injected with prescription steroids made at the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in 2012.

Separate federal juries this year convicted two former NECC pharmacists of racketeering, but acquitted them of second-degree murder, for their roles in manufacturing and distributing the tainted drugs. The settlement fund was approved by a bankruptcy court in 2015 to liquidate NECC assets after the shuttered facility was declared insolvent, and has largely been used to offset victims’ claims against third-party hospitals and pain clinics that passed NECC products on to patients.

U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel scheduled an April 2018 trial for the final case in the docket, a wrongful death suit that Meghan Handy brought on behalf of her deceased mother, Brenda Rozek, against Box Hill Surgery Center LLC and Ameridose LLC. Most other cases in the multidistrict litigation have been settled, some have been dismissed and others were transferred or remanded to state courts.

Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth P. Neiman and a settlement administrator, Epiq, approved a total of 2,026 claims submitted in the multidistrict litigation, tort trustee Lynne Riley of Casner & Edwards wrote in a status report filed with the court last month. They denied 327 claims. Judge Neiman retired in 2015. More than 1,850 of those claims have been paid in full. Others are missing paperwork or have failed to complete their submissions in other ways.

Judge Zobel said that she will give the remaining claimants until March 2018 to submit necessary documents, and indicated she will order them to show cause for prolonging claims beyond then. The tort trustee is Lynne F. Riley of Casner & Edwards. The Plaintiff Steering Committee is represented by Elizabeth J. Cabraser and Mark P. Chalos of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and others.

The cases are In re: New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc. Products Liability Litigation, (case number 1:13-md-02419) and Handy v. Ameridose LLC et al., (case number 1:14-cv-14019) both in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.


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