Judge Asks for Quick Resolution to Opioid Litigation
A large federal lawsuit filed by Delray Beach seeks to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for contributing to the opioid crisis. The case, which alleges deceptive marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies that manufacture prescription painkillers, as well as claims drug wholesalers bought more pain pills than needed in areas plagued by addiction, is one of more than 180 pertaining to the litigation, and federal judge, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Ohio who was nominated for appointment by President Clinton, is seeking a quick resolution.
Delray Beach has been inundated with a large number of sober homes, halfway houses for those newly sober, as well as an increase in the number of opioid overdoses. These statistics led to its inclusion in the litigation. Florida as a state has not yet made a decision to join the lawsuit, although it has been greatly affected by the epidemic.
Those filing the lawsuit want pharmaceutical companies to pay for the funds spent fighting the opioid crisis, including addiction and hospital overdose treatment and law enforcement costs and employment costs such as health care of government workers and absenteeism. They are also seeking ancillary costs related to the consequences and treatment of addiction.
“If you’re a pharmaceutical company and you’ve manufactured or marketed an opioid in the last 15 years, you’re probably named here. Similarly, if you’re a wholesaler, you’re probably named here,” said James Young, a Jacksonville-based attorney with the Morgan and Morgan firm. Young is among the many attorneys representing the governments. “It’s a very big problem that’s been brewing for years, and it’s hard to un-ring the bell.”
Polster pushed Tuesday for the pharmaceutical manufacturers and governments to settle quickly, noting that the United States is at risk this year of seeing life expectancy go down for the third straight year, stating, “this [crisis] is 100 percent manmade. I’m pretty ashamed that this has occurred while I’ve been around.”
However, despite the push for a fast settlement, Young predicted that the litigation would involve months of discovery, test cases and monthly meetings before the judge. He doesn’t feel a quick resolution is plausible.
Last week, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi asking for an update to the state’s investigations into the marketing practices of the pharmaceutical companies that contributed to the epidemic. “We have not received any update from your office or in the media on the status of this investigation, including whether your office has received responses from drug companies,” he wrote. “I would like to know whether your office has taken any steps outside of the multi-state investigation to determine whether these drug companies should be held liable for their role in the opioid crisis.”
A direct response has yet to be received. However, Bondi spokesperson Whitney Ray stated, “The multi-state investigation our office is co-leading is active and ongoing. Furthermore, we remain prepared to litigate as necessary and will make the decision as to when and where to file at the appropriate time.”