12:13pm

Wed December 19, 2012
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Meningitis Outbreak Lawsuits May Be Consolidated

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A University of Tennessee law professor says dozens of federal lawsuits filed in response to the ongoing meningitis outbreak could soon be folded into a single case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more than 600 people have been sickened to date and 39 have died, including 14 Tennesseans.

The Associated Press reports that at least 50 federal lawsuits in nine states have been filed against a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy.  All of those infected received steroid injections prepared by the company.

University of Tennessee law professor Paula Schaefer notes that a motion was recently filed in U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Michigan - asking that all the federal lawsuits be consolidated for pre-trial proceedings.

Schaefer says that may be good news for the plaintiffs.

“A settlement can be facilitated by that court because they have all of the cases there, and they can even coordinate the state court actions that are happening in other parts of the country just by reaching out to those state court judges and cooperating with them.”

Schaefer says a case consolidation could help the plaintiffs quickly discover what kind of assets the defendants might have that could be seized as part of any settlement.

She also notes that at least one plaintiff is already trying to, as she worded it, “pierce the corporate veil,” to go after the personal assets of the company’s officers.

The motion to consolidate the cases will be heard January 31.