According to the Centers for Disease Control, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, and opioid overdoses are representing an increasing percentage of more than 700,000 drug overdoses since 1999. The opioid epidemic has also unleashed a torrent of litigation: cities, counties, states, and Native American nations are suing manufacturers and distributors seeking liability for what has become a public health crisis.
And a recent court ruling in Oklahoma has spurred negotiations to settle all of the opioid-related lawsuits in one fell swoop.
A federal judge has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay Oklahoma $572 million for its role in fueling the state's opioid crisis. And in other settlements with the Sooner State, Purdue Pharma (the manufacturer of OxyContin) agreed to pay $270 million, and drug maker Teva agreed to pay another $85 million. Now NPR is reporting that those companies, along with Endo International and Allergan are attempting settle around 2,000 more suits that have been consolidated in another federal court in Ohio.
Initial reports indicate that Purdue Pharma, run by the secretive Sackler family, could pay up to $12 billion to settle all the claims against it, and that the agreement may include the family paying $3 billion of its own money and giving up ownership of the company. "For years, members of the Sackler family tried to hide their role in creating and profiting off the opioid epidemic," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. "We owe it to families in Massachusetts and across the country to hold Purdue and the Sacklers accountable, ensure that the evidence of what they did is made public, and make them pay for the damage they have caused."
The settlement talks, it appears, would only include state and local governments -- "a 'negotiating class' of tens of thousands of local governments," according to NPR. And who would control any money paid out, and who would get how much, remains to be determined. There is also talk of transforming Purdue from a private company into a "public beneficiary trust," which would send all profits from drug sales to states, cities, and tribes.
"While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals," the company announced in an email to NBC. "The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome."
Opioid lawsuits can be complex, and any claims you have may already be subject to ongoing litigation. If you have questions regarding opioid-related lawsuits, contact and experienced personal injury attorney for answers.