Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 28, 2013

Area attorney applauds fund for meningitis victims

TRAVERSE CITY — A Traverse City attorney who represents dozens of clients who have suffered or died from tainted steroid injections welcomed the announcement of a $100 million-plus fund to compensate victims.

“I am encouraged by how quickly this came out,” said Traverse City attorney Mark Dancer.

Dancer said the issue has never been a matter of culpability or negligence, but one of “collectibility” — whether there would ever be enough money to adequately compensate victims, including several in the Grand Traverse region.

“There was so much harm done, so many deaths and serious illnesses. One hundred million dollars sounds like a lot until you start carving it up with all the carnage that was out there,” he said.

About 750 people developed fungal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or other infections; 64 have died. The patients received an epidural drug injection to relieve back and joint pain from a lot compounded in 2012, according to a court filing.

The New England Compounding Center, based just west of Boston, made the steroid drug in a facility found to contain visible mold and standing water. The company gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection soon after it was flooded with hundreds of lawsuits.

Dancer and Daniel Myers of Dingeman, Dancer & Christopherson represent about 80 clients whose injuries range from minor harm to two deaths. The prescribed anti-fungal medicine also caused serious side effects, including hallucinations, Myers said.

“Some don’t know if this poison is still in their system. A number have been hospitalized for weeks and months with infections,” Myers said.

Victims have until Jan. 15 to file claims; settlements will be administered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Myers said.

The preliminary settlement would set up a victim compensation fund worth more than $100 million and could grow significantly over the coming months, said attorney William Baldiga, who announced the settlement Monday.

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