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Opioid Epidemic Biggest News Story in 2017, Opioid Litigation May be Biggest Legal News in 2018

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Attorneys representing cities and counties across the country are preparing for Opioid litigation.

Cleveland, OHAcross the U.S., city and county newspapers looking back on 2017 say the top news story was the opioid crisis. And opioid litigation already looks like it will dominate legal news in 2018.

Early in December, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) ordered city and county cases to join more than five dozen similar civil actions pending in federal courts nationwide, including Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, California and Ohio. The New York Times on December 22 reported that at least 189 of the federal cases have been assigned to Judge Dan Polster of the U.S. District Court for northern Ohio, based in Cleveland.

The Judicial Panel believes the benefits in efficiency in this MDL will outweigh other concerns. The transfer order says that, “All of the actions can be expected to implicate common fact questions as to the allegedly improper marketing and widespread diversion of prescription opiates into states, counties and cities across the nation, and discovery likely will be voluminous...Although individualized factual issues may arise in each action, such issues do not — especially at this early stage of litigation — negate the inefficiencies to be gained by centralization.”

Opposing the MDL

Some cities and counties aren’t pleased with this order. For instance, attorneys representing the city of Everett argue that its case should remain in the state of Washington. According to Herald Net, “Everett argued that its case raises unique claims, that it should remain in Washington, and barring that option, the other lawsuits should have been sent here,” and a U.S. District Court Judge spent much of 2017 addressing the legal issues raised by the city’s allegations. (Last year Everett filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, claiming the company contributed to the community’s opioid epidemic by allowing its product to wind up in drug rings and pill mills” -- where unscrupulous doctors handed out opioid prescriptions for minor ailments, disregarding the drugs’ addictive properties. In September, city attorneys prevailed when Purdue Pharma attempted to have the case dismissed without trial.)

The Everett attorneys said that combining cases now “would essentially place Everett’s action on hold” while the other litigants spar over unrelated pre-trial matters, and “unfairly delay Everett the badly-needed relief sought in its lawsuit”.

Favoring the MDL

“Legal experts said the lawsuits against the drug makers and distributors are anything but simple, the New York Times (Dec. 22, 2017) reported. There are so many variables involved that complicate so many issues, such as involvement by medical doctors, big pharma and street drug dealers and even the FDA because it regulates prescription drugs.

Some attorneys believe that by centralizing these cases, litigation can move more quickly and that “its disparate strands might be worked out in one place.”

Opioid Litigation Likened to Tobacco Industry Litigation

The Opioid situation has been likened to the state litigation in the 1990s against the tobacco industry, which ended with a global settlement, and involved some of the same lawyers that are spearheading the Opioids MDL.

''This litigation is like a big hammer -- it's like a tool where you're hitting somebody upside the head to get their attention,'' Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore told the Times. He filed the first state case against the tobacco industry. ''We have a public health emergency. It's time to quit talking about it and, if people are serious about fixing it, let's sit down and resolve it.''

More than 20 plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a motion to lead the federal Opioids MDL, and they have already been coined the “Dream Team”, and the “best and brightest” of the mass torts bar. (Judge Polster had ordered plaintiffs’ lawyers to file motions for lead counsel by December 20.) According to the motion--and reported by The National Law Journal--, the team would be led by New York attorney Paul Hanly of Simmons Hanly Conroy, Joe Rice of Motley Rice and Paul Farrell of West Virginia’s Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, who is lead counsel in more than 100 of the 180 cases in the MDL before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio.

“All of the lawyers on the proposed slate are very experienced in either complex litigation or drug litigation or MDL proceedings,” Hanly said in a press release. Rice led the negotiations over the $246 billion tobacco settlement, as well as deals worth billions of dollars involving the BP oil spill in 2010 and the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement. Farrell is founding co-chairman of the American Association for Justice’s opioids section litigation group along with Baron & Budd’s Burton LeBlanc, who is one of 15 lawyers on a proposed executive committee submitted in the motion.

The above lawyers asked Judge Polster to extend until January 9 a deadline to submit a proposed plaintiffs steering committee. Hanly said he anticipated there could be some changes to the team but didn’t expect any additional motions for lead counsel to be filed. “The reason there was not a single ‘nay’ vote is the slate we put together is the best and the brightest.”

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READER COMMENTS


Posted by

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I have had neck surgery and shoulder surgery. My neck didn't heal and I stay in terrible pain. I don't know if I will be able to get around if they take away my pain meds. With arthritis and not healing I try to get active but if they take things away I might not be able to be mobile anymore. People with chronic pain should understand what I am talking about.

Posted by

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I had back surgery in 2014 and my physician determined I still needed the pain medication. I am closely followed by a pain management Doctor. I have post laminectomy syndrome, bilateral laminectomy with sciatica with anxiety. I have arthritis on my spine. I am not abusing my medications, but without them I would be in horrible pain. I don't know what the problem is other than people that are dying from them choose to abuse them. If they succeed in passing this bill I am going to spend the majority of my time in the emergency room given medications that are not helpful to me. Wouldn't a Doctor know if his patient was addicted to their pain medications? There are signs, so stop making the rest of us suffer because someone else is abusing their drugs. I need mine.

Posted by

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As a chronic pain patient for over 20 years, some pain due to 3 different surgical mistakes, I find this witch hunt to be ludicrous. We have other severe drug related issues, (from the Mexican cartels who seem to be in every one of our large and small communities) than to be concerned about, other than scaring our people that are responsibly taking their pain meds. I have been verbally threatened by a PA in my doctors office who claims our Governor plans on signing an “Executive order” to only allow pain management patients a 7 day prescription per month. While the doctors who are trying to help their patients are in great fear of the DEA, the insurance companies, and Medicare. While I lose my quality of life and spend more time down because my prescriptions have been reduced and I cannot take any extra medication for real bad days, the people who are making these decisions have no real knowledge of what we go through hour by hour and day by day. This is a smoke screen to the American public to cover for the real dangerous drug issues that are going on. Not all suicides are related to opiates, but they are all now listed as drug overdoses. I am not the one who wrote my prescriptions, nor am I the one who chose to have doctors screw up 3 major surgeries on my body that have caused me the extra pain I suffer from. Nor will I take the blame for the diseases I have. I deserve to have life with some quality and dignity. All of my drug screens and urine screens have been clean for well over 20 years. I suffer, now my yard and plants will suffer, and I will not be able to take an hour ride with my husband on our motorcycle. He now has to carry all the groceries, the laundry baskets, vacuum, etc.. I have 2 hours a day to be on my feet. What I do not understand is why they continue to give the elderly in nursing homes a large variety of drugs while most of them are comotose. Or are they really getting them? That would be the first place I would check to see where the street drugs are coming from and are they being sold by the staff.

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I am writing on behalf of my wife, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 10 yrs ago. She is addicted to oxycodone, norcos, gaba pentin, valium and baclafen . She can't miss a dose or she goes into withdrawals. These meds. have ruined her and my life. Now her dr. requires her to take a drug test once a year to verify the amount she is taking, she is being treated like a common drug addict. While the Drs. are just worried about covering their behinds! She has been forced to see a psychiatrist so he can prescribe her valium as it is now a mental health drug and her primary gives her the opiods. These Drs. and the drug mfgs. need to be held accountable. My wife was a vibrant woman at 5'11'' in tall and 140 lbs, she now weighs 108 lbs these drugs are killing her . She has been offered detox , but i don't think she would survive it.

Posted by

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For 10 years I was treated for a severe back injury with Vicodin, when this "Opioid Epidemic" enforced by DEA stopped the very Drug that enabled me to lead a more productive life and forced me to seek Alternative methods to live with my pain; I was sexually assaulted in a Group Therapy session (which has been sugar coated and swept under the carpet) and to make matters worse, the owner's of this so called Treatment Program are the very Doctors that deny pain treatment to increase their patient populations, only to find in the parking lots, Commission based drug dealers approaching patients to sell now synthetic Opioids to decrease the pain just to function simple household chores, but will ultimately die; either due to these nonFDA approved Opioids or commit Suicide rather than live in pain, or live with newest "Drug Seekers" brand stamped on our foreheads, all in the name of combatting this Opioid Crisis. As we are denied our Civil rights for pain management by the AMA, citing these are the new Rules and Regulations handed down by DEA/FDA and enforced by Congress, are in fear of losing their Medical licenses.
The pendulum has swung too far now.
I would love to share my story and seek justice to the damage this "Opioid Crisis" has caused me.

Posted by

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I really do hope this legal action will achieve control of the abuse's of the opiod epidemic . Way to many lives have been destroyed because of pure greed and negligence. Every person I know , myself included has been affected by this abuse either themselves or family members. I would like to see justice being served from the top down, starting with the pharmaceutical industries to the negligent doctors who purely don't really care for the patients welfair. God Bless you and I wish you well with this.

Posted by

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Unfortunately, several years ago, I suffered a stroke. As a result, various doctors prescribed different medications (I.e., anxiety, anti-depression, sleeping aids, and a host of other pills). Needless to say, I became addicted to the opioids to which were prescribed for me.

I never did drugs as a teenager. I did not and still do not drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs. I only take my medications as prescribed by a physician. As a result, I am now addicted to Tramadal, Klonopin, and Trazadone just to mention a few. I take more than 20 pills per day.

I went cold turkey and stopped taking the drugs which resulted in me having a seizure. After being admitted to the hospital, I was put right back on the drugs which I had worked so hard to get off. I would like to sue the doctors along with the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs.

Please help me. Looking forward to hearing from a reputable attorney.

Sincerely,

Vera A. Steward

Posted by

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After my tour of duty in Iraq, and active duty. Was up from health conditions . At Was put On Opiod for Neck and Back Pain, and other conditions , I suffer while on active duty. And Now with all the talk of opioid medication. and my va. doctor retireing . I don't Know if the next doctor, at the Va will provide my pain medication or not . I will know in 4 weeks. But After 8 to 9 years now . Of taking the med. I cant get up and get around with out it. SO what will I do . If I cannot get it. If They knew they were going to make me worst long term. Why would they have give it to me to start with. This is wrong. ANd now I can get around without hurting worster. If I with out the medication. SO I don't know in the future whats going to become of my health Now.

Posted by

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I have lost two sisters to opiods. One brother to heroin. At present, the same doctors that gave my two sisters opiods in Reno also got my elderly mother hooked on them. My mother has been hooked on Tramadol for 11 years now. She turns 83 this March, and I cannot bear to think of what would happen to her if she detoxed from the drug... I worry she will die... I do not know what to do...

Posted by

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Yet another group of lawsuits by cities and States to jump into the knickers of a Drug company instead of the Tobacco companies to make up for shortfalls in their budgets and spending. WA, CA, and OR all sell legal dope (weed) over the counter because it makes them money shamelessly I might add, but for the 25% that may become a little to more heavily addicted on prescriptions, the other 75% that may very well need this medication, (to them it's just another medication that they don't abuse, you will make all suffer. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this is an altruistic lawsuit, it's about the money! You forced me to go from well controlled pain by medication that didn't hinder, nor cause anyone concern because it worked so well with my other medications, to going to pain Doctors that either wanted me on around the clock monitored pain medications (several visits a month at $45.00 per visit) to surgery that didn't work, to injections that have to be repeated in the spine every month at $400 a visit. You really need to get your priorities straight, or at least be honest about the reason your returning our Doctors authorities to the 70's and putting a lot of people in needless pain and extra expenses just to fill your pockets from lawsuits.

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