Opioid MDL track one cases settle on eve of openings, Joe Rice leads negotiations

Opioid manufacturers and distributors Teva, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson narrowly avoided trial by reaching a $260 million settlement to resolve claims filed by two Ohio counties that alleged the companies played a role in causing the opioid crisis.

The federal trial, scheduled to start Oct. 21, 2019 for plaintiffs Summit and Cuyahoga counties, would have been the first bellwether trial in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, comprised of roughly 2,600 lawsuits consolidated in the Northern District of Ohio. Motley Rice co-founder Joe Rice is co-lead counsel and a member of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the national MDL and served as one of the settlement’s lead negotiators.

Monday’s settlement includes:

  • $215 million from distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen
  • $20 million from manufacturer Teva
  • $25 million from Teva in addiction treatment medications

The settlement followed earlier $63 million deals reached in September with Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Endo and Allergan that will provide funds and charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations with opioid-related programs as well as addiction services. OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, too, avoided trial last month after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The counties were unable to reach a deal with Walgreens ahead of trial. Judge Polster will announce a new discovery and trial schedule for the pharmacy and the counties.

Litigation and settlement discussions continue for other municipalities and states whose litigation was not resolved through the settlement. Speaking with the National Law Journal, Rice said, “There should be a global settlement, but it’s got to be fair and it’s got to be now. “They wanted to pay less, and we wanted them to pay more. We still want a global settlement. We’re a long way from being through.”

Statement from National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL PEC co-leads Paul J. Hanly Jr., of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Paul T. Farrell Jr., of Greene Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, LLP and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC :

“Judge Polster’s efforts to mediate and resolve the federal opioid litigation has resulted in agreements in principle with our clients Cuyahoga and Summit Counties and defendants Teva, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. The proposed settlement will make significant progress to abate the epidemic by providing resources for and applying funds directly to necessary opioid-recovery programs. Throughout this process, Summit and Cuyahoga Counties have tirelessly investigated, litigated, and prepared for the bellwether trial that would have begun today if not for this agreement. In doing so, the communities revealed facts about the roles of the opioid industry that created and fueled the opioid epidemic.

Additionally, through the discovery process, we learned that this country’s pharmacy system has played a greater role in the opioid epidemic than previously realized. Cuyahoga and Summit will continue to litigate against pharmacy defendants to further understand the industry’s failings and potential wrongdoing.

We recognize that the Attorneys General are working toward the same goal – to hold the defendants accountable. On behalf of the more than 2,700 American communities we represent, the MDL leadership continues discussions to achieve a global resolution that will provide resources to abate the epidemic nationwide."

The trial team, co-led by Motley Rice attorney Don Migliori, worked tirelessly during the past year to prepare for the trial, including working around the clock in Cleveland in the weeks leading up to the trial.

Motley Rice attorneys represent dozens of governmental entities, including states, cities, towns, counties and townships in ongoing investigations and litigations filed in both the federal MDL as well as state courts that allege deceptive marketing and/or the overdistribution of opioid drugs. In addition to Joe’s leadership as co-lead counsel of the PEC, Motley Rice attorneys Linda Singer and Lou Bograd are also members of the PEC and serve as co-chair of the Manufacturer/Marketing Committee, and co-chair of the Law & Briefing Committee, respectively. Learn more about the opioid litigation.