For years, opioids and opioid addiction have been a thriving problem in our nation. As a whole, opioids are the most-prescribed class of drug around the world. The peak of opioids hit back in 2012 when doctors wrote more than 255 million prescriptions. While many of the prescriptions were legitimate to relieve pain from acute injuries and chronic conditions, a great deal are linked to addiction. According to a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 46 people died every day from an overdose, most of which were from prescriptions opioids, in 2016 alone.
In the newest version of this ongoing conflict, opioid lawsuits are being filed by hundreds of states, cities, and counties. While the winners of these lawsuits will be those affected by the addiction, lawyers themselves will profit handsomely as well. In fact, according to Bloomberg, attorneys could pocket at least 25% of the total global settlement, which could amount to $12.5 billion.
The lawsuits themselves are based on the fact that many of these cities and counties have suffered billions of dollars in medical and law enforcement costs while trying to subdue the addiction. While the legal arguments against the opioid manufacturers are quite complex and currently unclear, they include a wide variety of allegations. Most of the government entities, tribes, and unions filling the cases are those that were hit the hardest by the addiction, including communities in Northern California and the Appalachian states. Many of these communities have poverty rates above the national average. In total, the lawsuits are featured across more than 45 of the 50 US States.
The lawsuits are spearheaded by lawyers Joe Rice, Paul Hanly, and Paul Farrell. These three lead an executive committee made up of 21 lawyers which serve as the liaison group towards more administrative duties and other coordinating aspects of the case as a whole. From there, the team began to work to recruit clients from around the country to firmly establish and build their case. Hundreds of attorneys fanned out across the nation, visiting city council chambers and connecting with other local attorneys in order to get people on board.
On the other side of the spectrum, drug makers and distributors have employed their legal team to come to their defense. While they see the problem with public health, they claim they are not to blame. These companies believe they have disclosed all the risks of their opioids but that people around the country are simply ignoring the health suggestions and that there are other actions that lead to the misuse of the drug. Similarly, distributors point out that they are not marketing or prescribing the drug, rather just transporting it like any other product, to the end customer.
The largest question that looms from this ongoing development is, what is the best way to tackle the crisis? While litigation is currently being explored, many communities and individuals have done so because it is currently their only option. At this point, the lack of action from the federal government has left no other choice but to pursue litigation.