The judge overseeing the national opioid litigation appears likely to approve a controversial plan to help negotiate opioid lawsuit settlements, Law360 reported Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster is considering a first-of-its-kind “negotiation class” that could potentially consist of every city and county in the US. The negotiation class would organize the country’s 30,000-plus local governments into one group, clearing a path for global opioid lawsuit settlements with opioid drug makers and distributors, Law360 reported.
Though Judge Polster did not issue a ruling on the negotiation class, he reportedly offered little to no objections to the plan.
“There has to be some vehicle to resolve these lawsuits. I think this vehicle has some merit,” Judge Polster said, as reported by Law360. “Is it perfect? No. … But that isn’t a reason to say no, because you’ve never had a set of lawsuits like this, so the vehicle isn’t going to be one that’s been tried and tested.”
The plan did not appear to sit well with many of the manufacturers and distributors accused of fueling the nation’s devastating opioid crisis. Counsel for drug distributor McKesson Corp. reportedly called it a flawed idea that would add another layer of complication.
Some state attorneys general raised issue with the plan as well, apparently saying the class could tread on their authority.
Judge Polster disagreed, saying: “I don’t think this proposal infringes one iota on state sovereignty.”
He also said anyone could opt out of the negotiation class if they did not want to be a part of it.
As part of the plan, any settlements would have to win support from 75% of the voting governments, including 75% of populations and 75% of litigating and non-litigating governments, Law360 reported.
The judge said he would make a decision on the proposed negotiation class in the near future.
The case is In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, case number 1:17-md-02804, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
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