Judge Rules all U.S. Cities, Counties Have Stake in Opioid Settlements

Medications that are are stored in the police headquarters that are and slated for destruction, are shown in a locked storage area, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in Barberton, Ohio.

Medications that are are stored in the police headquarters that are and slated for destruction, are shown in a locked storage area, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, in Barberton, Ohio. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster’s ruling broadens the scope of participants in the ongoing multi-district litigation brought against prescription drug companies.

Every city and county in the United States will be able to participate in a potential settlement agreement with the drug companies blamed for igniting the ongoing opioid epidemic, a federal judge ruled this week.

The decision has the potential to dramatically expand the number of municipal governments involved in the already sprawling multi-district litigation, reducing the amount available to individual jurisdictions. But the ruling would ensure that settlement payments go directly to counties and cities, a decision that experts say makes it more likely funding will be used to reimburse public health costs rather than fund broad prevention or addiction treatment strategies.  

More than 2,000 cities, counties and states had filed lawsuits that were consolidated in the litigation. The ruling, handed down by U.S. District Judge Daniel Polster on Wednesday, expands the potential roster of participating jurisdictions and establishes rules for how members of the class will approve any settlement agreement going forward.

The decision “clears the way for all towns, cities, and counties in our country to not only negotiate with the opioid industry but to use their joint bargaining power to secure the resources they need to fund addiction, recovery, and prevention efforts in their own neighborhoods,” attorneys Jayne Conroy and Chris Seeger, the co-lead negotiation class counsel, said in a statement.

The ruling does not apply to a pending $12 billion settlement being hammered out between Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and state and municipal governments. Thirteen defendants, including drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are involved in the case. Judge Polster, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio, is overseeing consolidated litigation brought by governments across the country against the drug companies and has been actively working to broker a comprehensive settlement agreement. 

Under Polster’s ruling, local governments would have until November 22 to opt out of the case. Local governments would have to decide whether to be part of the case before any settlement amount was agreed to, but certifying the size of the class would allow them to calculate their share of any potential settlement.

State attorneys general had opposed the negotiation class proposal.  

“The states have been trying to override the negotiating by the cities and counties out of fear it will be hard to get a global resolution with these smaller entities at the table,” said Harry Nelson, a healthcare attorney and author of the book The United States of Opioids.

The judge rejected the notion that cities and counties, which have primarily borne the costs of responding to the opioid epidemic, should take a back seat in the negotiations, Nelson said.

Acknowledging the opposition by attorneys general, Polster noted that nothing in his decision precludes states from continuing with their own cases.

“There is nothing exclusive about this process: it does not interfere with the States settling their own cases any way they want, and it does not stop parties in the MDL from settling in other ways,” Polster wrote in the 40-page ruling. “And there is nothing intrusive about this process: it does not stop any litigation from continuing and in no way interferes with the upcoming bellwether trials in this MDL. This process simply provides an option—and in the Court’s opinion, it is a powerful, creative, and helpful one.”

An estimated 130 people die every day in the United States from opioid-related overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some states have been hit harder by the opioid epidemic than others, experts say the scale of the problem requires a settlement that provides financial help for all communities across the country.

“It certainly is in everybody’s interest to have one settlement that meets all the needs across the country,” said Paul Samuels, director of the Legal Action Center.

The center helped outline a series of key strategies for investing in solutions to the opioid crisis.

But differing opinions about how to best spend the money have led to disagreements between state and local government.

In Oklahoma, where a state-led lawsuit resulted in $270 million settlement with Purdue, municipalities complained of being left out when most of the money was allotted for the establishment of a new research and addiction treatment center at Oklahoma State University.

In the 1998 tobacco settlements, states received the lion’s share of settlement payouts. But much of the funding never went to tobacco secession efforts. Concern about a replay of the tobacco settlements led cities and counties to more aggressively pursue litigation related to the opioid epidemic.

“The settlement is likely to look very different based on the allocation of funds to cities and counties,” Nelson said. “On the ground the cities are looking for reimbursement for public health costs incurred, but we are not going to see broad investments.”

Before any proposed settlement is made, litigants will have to vote to approve the deal. Polster’s ruling outlines procedures for approval that require support from 75% of members. Approval would require 75% support in three categories, including the number and population of municipalities and a breakdown in the allocation of funds.

The settlement funds would be divided among counties based on a formula that weighs certain public health factors. Counties would distribute funds to cities located in their boundaries through their own negotiated agreements, according to the ruling.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.