In October 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a "national emergency" and announced that he would use federal funds to help tackle the opioid problems plaguing the country. While the Trump Administration wishes to dissuade people from taking opioids, a massive amount of damage has already been done. 59,000 people died in 2016 because of opioids. As a result, hundreds of cities and counties have filed suit against several drug manufacturers.
Harris County filed its lawsuit on behalf of those affected by the epidemic in December 2017. However, a caveat to drug litigation on this scale is that oftentimes these lawsuits are consolidated into "MDLs," or multi-district litigation. This suit is overseen by an Ohio federal court. The purpose of consolidation allows for a streamlined procedure, where all parties collect into one federal district court, where a settlement can hopefully allow litigation to close in an efficient manner. This would allow the plaintiffs to be compensated and save millions of dollars on trial.
As of right now, Harris County has filed its suit against 21 defendants in Texas state court. However, three of the 21 defendants wish to remove the case to federal court and hopefully consolidate the Harris County claims in the MDL in Ohio federal court. Most defendants wish to consolidate these cases within an MDL for efficiency purposes. This also saves them on litigation expenses, given that these suits have been filed nationwide.
Harris County is fighting against removal to federal court. Local officials believe that local juries, judges and litigants should see this matter through to the end at home. In addition, the county contends forcing the claims into the MDL would raise the costs for taxpayers and negatively affect their ability to reach a settlement, because their claims would be watered down with the hundreds of claims in the MDL.
In addition, as part of the MDL, the judge that presides over the case wishes to achieve a settlement all claims across the country. The money from the settlement would then filter down to each litigant city, county and plaintiff. Harris County officials worry that the judge would not consider the harm done on an individual basis for efficiency purposes and would disallow each person harmed to be compensated for their injuries.
If you are suffering, or have suffered from an opioid addiction or side-effects, please call Reich & Binstock today at 713-622-7271.