Judge Dan Polster, nominated to his post by former President Bill Clinton, may want to discuss a quick and easy settlement for the nation’s opioid crisis. But, more and more states are choosing to go to war and litigate instead. Lawsuits recently filed against Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma LP and other drug manufactures by Tennessee and Florida cast more doubt on a possibility of an agreed upon resolution.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and Florida’s Pam Bondi have accused opioid makers and distributors of fueling the health crisis by falsely claiming their products, marketed to reduce pain, aren’t addictive. The states joined more than 20 others that have sued the companies for deceptive marketing practices and their involvement in fueling the epidemic.
Purdue’s attorneys approached a few of the state’s attorneys general last year hoping to come up with a quick settlement of the many filings against it which seek to recoup the costs of opioid addiction. But, settlement talks were evidently stalled over the question of who will pay to provide extra funding for law enforcement efforts and drug treatment budgets, both necessary components of curtailing the effects of addiction.
Slatery and Bondi’s decision to sue is an acknowledgment that they feel opioid producers and distributors won’t get serious about settling suits until the cases go to trial, according to Florida-based attorney Mike Papantonio, who is involved in the litigation. “You can’t accomplish anything in terms of getting companies to admit they are responsible without filing lawsuits,” Papantonio said. “There won’t be any closure on this without litigation.” Thus, states must go to war against those responsible.
Leigh Ann Jones, a spokesperson for Slatery, said Tennessee’s top attorney “will continue to play a leadership role in the multistate effort and settlement discussions.”
Slatery’s announcement that his office will go after the pill makers in federal court reportedly has no effect the progress of previous 2017 lawsuits in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd judicial districts in Northeast Tennessee. “I do not believe it will have any effect on our suit. I welcome (Slatery’s) action and am glad he has joined the fight to hold those responsible for the opioid epidemic gripping East Tennessee,” Dan E. Armstrong, district attorney general of the 3rd Judicial District that includes Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties said. He added that funds from a 2007 settlement with Tennessee amounted to little more than $700,000 that ended up in state coffers and did not benefit local jurisdictions in fighting the crisis.
Bondi indicated she wanted an out-of-court deal even though she’d joined the ranks of states suing opioid makers. “We will never stop negotiating,” she promised. Yet, the lawsuit is a warning to manufacturers and distributors that Florida officials are fully prepared to go to war if the companies unreasonably deny their efforts.
George Jepsen, Connecticut’s attorney general and another leader of the multistate talks, commented on the current situation and the perspective of the state’s leaders, including that of Slatery and Bondy, stating, “We anticipate they will continue in their leadership roles going forward.”
Other states have already dropped out of settlement discussions and are preparing to fight.