Judge Dan Polster considers a recommended strategy for bring all locales into consolidated litigation.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, during a hearing in Cleveland, Ohio, said that a plan brought forth by the attorneys representing the cities and counties involved in the consolidated opioid litigation “could allow companies accused of fueling the epidemic in nearly 2,000 lawsuits before him an ability to obtain global peace.” The goal is to bring all communities into the combined case. The proposal calls for creating a class of up to 3,000 counties and 30,000 cities, towns and villages that would vote on whether to accept any settlement the plaintiffs reach with the defendants.
“There has to be some vehicle to resolve these lawsuits,” said Polster. He said the proposal “gets the money to where the harm is to help address the opioid epidemic’s effects in communities nationally.”
Joe Rice, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at the law firm Motley Rice, said, “The aim is to form a united group vested with the power to negotiate, vote on and deliver finality if there is an opportunity to negotiate a settlement.”
However, attorneys general from 37 states and the District of Columbia have objected to such a structure, saying the plan would “likely face future court challenges” which could devalue their settlements.
Paul Singer, a lawyer with the Texas Office of the Attorney General, said the plan “also interfered with the states’ ability to decide how money is spent within their borders by setting a formula for allocating settlement funds among local governments.”
Most of the lawsuits are before Polster and the case will go to trial in October. Plaintiffs have claimed it could cost about $480 billion to remedy their allegations.
Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen recently proposed paying $10 billion to settle all claims against the distributor that they contributed to the crisis. All three opioid companies have been hit hard with claims that they did not do enough to flag and discontinue shipping large, suspicious orders of addictive drugs. The companies made the verbal proposal with the National Association of Attorneys General. The group of AGs made a counteroffer of $45 billion.
In a statement, McKesson said, “We regularly engage with the state attorneys general, but the company has made no settlement offers.”
In March, Purdue, and its owners, the Sackler family, agreed to pay $270 million to Oklahoma to settle a lawsuit accusing the drugmaker of misleading marketing efforts pertaining to OxyContin. As a part of that agreement, Purdue agreed to contribute $102.5 million. The company said it “continues to have active discussions with attorneys general and is fully engaged with the multidistrict litigation process…to help communities address the opioid crisis,” adding, “We believe strongly in our defense, and we believe we will prevail once the full facts are presented.”
David Sackler spoke out in June, stating, “I understand the argument that Purdue was among the first to talk about” the supposed benefits of OxyContin, he said, adding, “We were. But as the science changed, we put safeguards in place. I really don’t think there’s much in the complaints, frankly, that’s at issue that’s not just, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have marketed these things at all.’ Right? And I guess that’s a hindsight debate one can have.”
There are more than 1,000 cases still open and part of the consolidated litigation to date.