The federal judge presiding over lawsuits filed by local governments against the drug makers and distributors over the economic costs of the U.S. opioid epidemic rejected an attempt by the defendants to escape liability for damages.

While no decisions have been made as to whether, in fact, opioid manufacturers will be required to compensate municipalities and other local governments for the costs they have incurred in dealing with the crises, the recent ruling keeps the door open for such an outcome.

Multidistrict Opioid Litigation Proceedings

As reported in Law360 (sub req’d), U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster denied a motion by the drug manufacturers and distributors in the national multidistrict opioid litigation to bar local Ohio governments from being able to recover damages at trial. The motion was premised on alleged violations by the governments of previous court orders directing them to turn over information regarding “prescriptions that the governments believe were medically unnecessary or medically inappropriate.”

The defendants asserted that this information was “critically important” to the preparation of their defense and that the purported failure by the plaintiffs to provide it justified either dismissing the case entirely or at least striking the governments’ claims for damages.

The judge saw things differently, finding that the plaintiffs had indeed disclosed the requested information to the drug companies and that the motion was therefore moot. The case will therefore proceed with the opioid manufacturers and distributors still facing hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

Sommers Schwartz represents several Michigan counties, cities, and townships in the opioid litigation, helping them recover the economic costs they have incurred to combat the crisis locally.