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State Wants To Take Over Opioid Lawsuits

Aug 29, 2019

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The family behind the maker of one of the main drugs blamed for the nation’s opioid crisis has reportedly offered 12 billion dollars to settle a federal case in Cleveland. 

There are around 100 different lawsuits filed by Ohio cities and counties that are part of that case. And now there’s a bill in the works that would give the state authority over those suits. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles explains.

Republican Representative Bob Cupp says the bill is still being drafted and hasn’t been introduced. As a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, he sees value in having Attorney General Dave Yost take over all of the lawsuits.

“And when you have that, it is easier for the court to help resolve it, and it’s easier for the parties to be able to negotiate a binding settlement if they are going to do that or to bring in the resources of the state into the litigation to get the best outcome.”

 

But local officials aren’t happy, especially now that the Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, one of the main drugs blamed for the opioid crisis, has reportedly offered to settle the case for up to $12 billion for all 2000 cases. Louis Tobin, Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, says the local prosecutors have done the heavy lifting so far and should be able to finish the job.

 

 “We’re 50 or 51 days away from the first trial starting in Cleveland, we have the Sackler family making settlement offers and all of a sudden we have people in Columbus wanting to hit the reset button on this.”  

 

Well, not all people in Columbus. Governor Mike DeWine says he opposes the idea.

 

“I think it would be a very serious mistake. I think it would be unfair to our local government partners who have borne such a very heavy part of this burden.”

 

Yost has said he thinks cities and counties are – in his words – “grasping for power” in the federal case. That case is separate from the state’s lawsuit against drug companies, which was filed in Chillicothe. 

 

DeWine says he thinks any money the state gets from its own case should be dedicated to drug treatment, prevention efforts and local law enforcement.