A federal judicial panel has ruled that dozens of cases involving a
nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak, including those filed on behalf
of Tennessee victims, will be consolidated before a federal judge in
In Tuesday's ruling, the U.S. Judicial Panel on
Multidistrict Litigation concluded that Massachusetts was the most
appropriate location for the multiple lawsuits because the company
blamed for the outbreak is located there and many of the likely
witnesses live there. Federal and state investigations of the outbreak
are centered there.
The decision follows a hearing late last month
in Orlando, Fla., at which attorneys for the victims and the New
England Compounding Center all favored consolidation but differed on a
"Centralization will eliminate duplicative
discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, especially with
respect to class certification and discovery issues; and conserve the
resources of the parties," the seven-judge panel concluded in the
The panel delayed a decision on those cases against NECC in which there are multiple other defendants.
steroids produced by NECC have been linked to 704 illnesses in 20
states. Forty-six people have died, including 14 in Tennessee.
Randy Kinnard, the Nashville attorney representing several local
victims and their families, said the decision was not unexpected.
He said it still was possible that after the initial discovery phase the Tennessee cases could be returned here for trial.
the cases remain in Massachusetts, Tennessee victims and their family
members could be forced to travel to Boston for the trial. But attorneys
involved in the cases also said the consolidation could bring a
Mark Chalos, a Nashville attorney who has been following the cases, said the decision "makes sense."
He noted that all the civil suits against NECC are on hold because the compounding firm filed for bankruptcy late last year.
decision will have no impact on a recently filed suit against Saint
Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center, the site where the local victims
were injected with the fungus-tainted spinal steroid. NECC is not a
defendant in that suit, filed in circuit court in Nashville.