CLEVELAND — A federal opioid litigation case took center stage in Cleveland on Tuesday, with a proposal combining lawsuits filed by cities and counties nationwide into a single negotiating class for potential financial settlements.
U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster reviewed a motion filed by plaintiff attorney's representing Cleveland, Akron, Cuyahoga and Summit counties, as well as scores of other communities across the country, who have been hard hit by the opioid crisis and seeking to recoup expenses.
If approved, the proposed plan would create a "negotiating class" and create a mechanism for to calculate how much money would be available to each if a settlement is reached.
The National Prescription Opiate Litigation, known as a Multi District Litigation, involving approximately 2,000 lawsuits filed across the country against drug companies accused of knowingly contributing to the opioid crisis.
Paul Farrell, Jr. is a lead attorney representing plaintiff's who said the plan to bring together a "negotiating class" could expedite the legal process and "could bring monetary resources and treatment programs" to communities impacted by opioids.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found Ohio had the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the U.S in 2017.
Drug companies have raised some objections to the proposed plan suggesting it lacks specifics in terms of exactly how much money communities would receive and could leave pharmaceutical companies open to future lawsuits and financial damages.
In addition, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wrote a letter to the court opposing efforts to create a "negotiating class".
"The proposed negotiating class should not be certified," wrote Yost, adding that, "it would delay final resolution of the Opioid Litigation and impinge the ability of states to resolve their claims on behalf of residents".
Judge Polster is expected to rule on the motion in upcoming days but a trial date remains set for October.