Judicial panel centralizes opioid lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors in Ohio MDL

by Jim Orr

Dozens of lawsuits filed against opioid manufacturers by state and local governments have been consolidated in a federal multidistrict litigation. The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled last week that approximately 180 lawsuits filed in districts across the country would be heard by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio.

The lawsuits that are part of the nationwide opioids MDL allege that the manufacturers of these drugs overstated their benefits and understated their dangers while marketing them to physicians. Many of the lawsuits have also been filed against distributors of opioid medications, wherein it is alleged that the distributors failed to properly monitor or report suspicious orders to authorities.

Although a total of 115 lawsuits filed by state, county, or municipal authorities currently fall within the scope of the opioids MDL, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said that more lawsuits could be included in the litigation at a later date. Because of the wide variety of cases that may eventually be included in the MDL, the panel stated that Judge Polster may eventually find it necessary to separate the various cases into separate “tracks.”

The JPML stated in its order that it chose Judge Polster’s Ohio court as the location for the MDL in part because of the high number of opioid overdoses that have occurred in Ohio. The panel also cited Judge Polster’s experience with handling large, centralized litigation as a reason for moving the opioid MDL to his court. The group of attorneys representing the plaintiffs in 46 opioid lawsuits who originally called for the MDL selected Judge Polster’s court as one of its two preferred venues in its petition to the JPML.

Lawsuits Filed in Response to the Opioid Epidemic

The flood of new lawsuits filed against the makers of prescription painkillers comes in response to a nationwide epidemic of overdose deaths linked to opioid drugs. According to the CDC, painkiller prescriptions have increased by a factor of four in the U.S. since 1999. The agency also says that overdose deaths involving opioids have also increased by four times during this same time, with more than 33,000 deaths occurring in 2015 alone.

This rise in opioid prescriptions in the U.S. and the increase in overdose deaths caused by these drugs occurred in part because of the aggressive marketing of prescription painkillers by the pharmaceutical industry. Lawsuits against opioid makers like Purdue Pharma accused these companies of marketing opioids to doctors for patients who are not approved by the FDA to be treated with these medications. As more patients began to receive opioids from their doctors, the nationwide rate of addiction, drug abuse, dependency, and deadly overdoses linked to prescription painkillers has skyrocketed.

Lawsuits filed against Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers have accused these firms of downplaying the risks of opioid medications and overstating their benefits. Other lawsuits have accused opioid manufacturers of negligence and violations of RICO racketeering laws or state laws governing prohibited business practices.

In other opioid lawsuits filed by state or local governments, authorities have targeted “pill mills” that distribute large quantities of opioid painkillers. Other lawsuits have also been filed against doctors and pharmacists who were stripped of their medical licenses because of inappropriate opioid prescribing practices.

Opioid Overdose Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

If you have lost a loved one to an opioid overdose, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug, or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the medication. The first step in taking legal action is to consult with an experienced attorney regarding your legal rights.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of opioid overdose victims and their families. Our firm has filed more lawsuits involving an opioid medication known as the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. – combined. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were harmed by other complications from opioid painkillers, including patients who suffered a combined drug overdose caused by interactions between opioids and other CNS depressant medications.

For more information about filing an opioid overdose lawsuit and to find out whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.