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Plaintiffs Petition Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation for Consolidated Docket in National Opioid Litigation

Plaintiffs in a majority of opioid lawsuits filed nationwide have petitioned a federal judicial panel to have the cases consolidated before a single federal judge in either Ohio or Illinois. In a motion filed on September 25th with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML), the plaintiffs request transfer and coordination of all pending federal lawsuits filed by governmental entities against the distributors and manufacturers of prescription opioid painkillers.

Currently, there are at least 66 such cases filed in 11 different federal district courts throughout the country. They all substantially allege that the manufacturers and/or distributors of opioid painkillers should be held liable for the more than $75 billion economic burden imposed annually on local and state agencies as a result of opioid misuse. The plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief to prevent future misuse of opioid drugs and the ensuing addiction. According to the plaintiffs, the prescription opioid defendants violated the Controlled Substances Act and Code of Federal Regulations, which imposed a closed system specifically designed to prevent opioid misuse and addiction.

“[The Defendants] deliberately failed their duty to detect, report and halt ‘suspicious’ orders of opioids, despite being required to do so by Federal and State law, and repeated admonitions and enforcement actions by the DEA regarding their failure to report,” the petition to transfer states. “Notwithstanding the non-delegable duties to detect, halt and report suspicious order, defendants sold as many pills as possible while ignoring the obvious evidence that the volume of addictive drugs flooding into local communities far exceeded any legitimate or scientific purpose.”

The petitioners, who comprise about two-thirds of the cases currently on file, requested that the Multidistrict Litigation Docket be created in either the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio or the Southern District of Illinois and that it be presided over by Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr. or Judge Staci M. Yandle, respectively.

Orange County’s Opioid Lawsuit

As mentioned in our blog post, Orange County Sues Drug Makers and Doctors Over Opioid Addiction Crisis, Orange County announced in May that it started a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P.; Purdue Pharma Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. n/k/a Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Endo Health Solutions Inc.; and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., accusing the pharmaceutical manufacturers of engaging in aggressive and fraudulent marketing that downplayed the risks of prescription opioid painkillers, leading to a drug epidemic. The lawsuit also names physicians Russell Portenoy, Perry Fine, Scott Fishman and Lynn Webster, who allegedly were instrumental in promoting opioids for sale and distribution nationally and in Orange County.

The lawsuit claims the drug makers, through deceptive marketing, misrepresented the dangers of long-term opioid use to doctors, pharmacists and patients. Those misrepresentations about drugs like Purdue’s OxyContin and Endo’s Opana ER led Orange County to incur health care, criminal justice and other costs related to addiction. The six causes of action in the civil lawsuit against the defendants include:

  • Violations of NYS General Business Law Section 349 in relation to deceptive acts and practices in the conduct of business, trade, or commerce
  • Violations of NYS General Business Law Section 350
  • Public Nuisance
  • Violations of NYS Social Services Law 145-b
  • Fraud
  • Unjust Enrichment

Orange County is seeking relief including compensatory and punitive damages for the millions of dollars it spends on fighting the public health issue caused by drug companies’ “deceptive marketing campaigns that misrepresent the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.”

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