U.S. District Judge Dan Polster approved a team of 22 lawyers to oversee the more than 180 lawsuits against companies accused of helping to fuel the national opioid epidemic. The team includes many of the same attorneys who helped land the $246 billion settlement with Big Tobacco.
The proposed slate is broken down into various committees and working groups, and has room for more attorneys. The groups would be overseen by a plaintiffs steering committee, which has yet to be decided.
A larger and much more detailed system for tackling the opioid litigation is needed because it is too large to follow the usual leadership structures of a traditional multidistict litigation – which generally consists of lead counsel, an executive committee, and plaintiffs steering committee.
Last month, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled that the growing number of lawsuits filed by local governments against drug companies would be centralized in the Northern District of Ohio, and the cases were sent to Judge Polster. At the time, the MDL consisted of at least 115 cases, but has since grown to nearly 180 cases and is expect to grow substantially in the near future, widening the variety of plaintiffs and defendants. As the multidistrict litigation grows, Judge Polster will likely separate the claims and parties.
Last year, President Trump classified the opioid epidemic as a national public health crisis with the number of prescriptions written in the U.S. increasing in step with the number of overdose fatalities. Last year, about 22,000 people died from opioid overdoes in the U.S.
The National Law Journal