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January 5, 2018

Joe Rice appointed co-lead for opioid MDL

Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice has been appointed co-lead counsel in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation being coordinated in the Northern District of Ohio. Currently there are approximately 200 lawsuits filed in Federal court involving more than 50 defendants and hundreds of governmental claimants. Among the claims within the multidistrict litigation are that the pharmaceutical industry deceptively marketed highly addictive prescription painkillers, thereby contributing to a growing epidemic that claims thousands of American lives each year.

Joining Rice as co-lead counsel are Paul J. Hanly Jr., of Simmons Hanley Conroy, and Paul T. Farrell Jr., of Greene Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, LLP. U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster announced the leadership appointments Jan. 4, 2018 after approving a Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee that will oversee the MDL.

Motley Rice attorneys, including Linda Singer who leads the firm's Public Client practice, have been at the forefront of the growing opioid MDL, and serve as lead counsel for the first jurisdictions to file claims in the recent wave of cases targeting the pharmaceutical industry – the City of Chicago and Santa Clara County. The firm’s representation has expanded to include multiple states, counties, cities and towns, including the states of Alaska, Kentucky, Montana, South Carolina and New Hampshire, one of the hardest hit states in the epidemic.

“With a rising death toll and the grip of addiction impacting millions across the country in some way, shape or form, there’s no question that the opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues of our time. We have some very hard work ahead of us,” said Joe. “Thanks in large part to the leadership of many cities and counties throughout the country involved in this litigation, and to the many other states that are pursuing simultaneous litigation, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work to help usher in the change and accountability that is long overdue and desperately needed to save lives.”

Joe’s commitment to litigation aimed at furthering public health initiatives has spanned more than 30 years. In the 1990s, Joe worked closely with Motley Rice co-founder Ron Motley (1944-2013) to represent dozens of state Attorneys General and other public entities in litigation against Big Tobacco. The $246 billion Master Settlement Agreement that Joe helped negotiate remains the largest civil settlement in U.S. history.

More recently, Joe was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” litigation, for which he helped lead negotiations that resulted in a $15 billion settlement for 2.0-liter vehicles, the largest auto-related consumer class action settlement in U.S. history.

Pharmaceutical companies named in the opioid MDL include, but are not limited to, Purdue Pharma, Endo, and Janssen. Collectively, the drug manufacturers are responsible for producing several prescription painkillers associated with the epidemic, including OxyContin; Hysingla ER; Nucynta, Actiq; Opana/Opana Er; Percodan; and Percocet. The number of overdose deaths in the U.S. attributed to opioids has quadrupled since 1999, claiming roughly 175 American lives each day.

The case is: In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, No. 17-md-02804. Read more about the appointment.