A request has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to establish consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal lawsuits filed on behalf of infants born opioid-dependent, which seek damages from drug manufacturers, distributors and other parties responsible fo the highly addictive and widely abused pain killers.
There are currently hundreds of complaints filed in the federal court system, each seeking damages for costs associated with opioid addiction and abuse from various drug manufacturers, including Purdue, Teva/Cephalon, Janssen, Endo, Actavis, and Mallinckrodt, as well as distributors for the medication, including McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen Corporation, and Cardinal Health, Inc.
In December, the U.S. JPML consolidated all of the opioid cases before U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
The cases are centralized to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.
On September 20, plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer (PDF), seeking to establish a separate MDL for lawsuits over opioid-dependent infants. The existing MDL is mainly focused on lawsuits filed by states and local government agencies, and the motion indicates that there are conflicts of interest and special protections owed children during litigation that call for the cases to be their own separate MDL.
Plaintiffs indicate that insufficient steps are being taken to address the allegations raised in the complaints brought on behalf of infants born with opioid addictions.
“Movants have also established that despite their counsel’s numerous attempts to address these concerns with the leadership of the MDL, the status quo remains,” the motion states. “Absent a structural change within the MDL, the question before the Panel is not whether these cases should be held outside of the MDL (they must be), but whether they should be consolidated in their own MDL.”
The motion seeks to have the actions consolidated either in the Southern District of West Virginia or, alternately, the Southern District of Illinois. The motion notes that the panel favorably discussed a separate, non-governmental MDL during a November 30, 2017 panel hearing, which resulted in the creation of the current opioid MDL.
Opioid Abuse Crisis
In the United States, evidence now suggests that drug overdoses kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people died from drug overdoses. Even as abuse has seemingly decreased, opioid overdose deaths have increased.
In 2015, two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids, including Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl, which on its own is largely driving the number of opioid deaths.
Americans use more opioids than any other country in the world, with the number of prescriptions in the U.S. last year providing enough pills to medicate every American 24 hours a day for three weeks consecutively. Opioid overdoses kill more than 90 Americans every day, experts say, and the economic burden of opioid misuse costs the country $78.5 billion per year.
Judge Polster previously indicated that if an opioid drug settlement agreement cannot be reached, he anticipates that the first trial would involve an Ohio case and could begin as early as next year.