From Opioids to Guns: Cities, Counties Step Up Civil Suits

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rutherford County, Tenn., faces a major public health problem. So like more than 400 other U.S. counties and cities facing health-care, emergency-response, and other costs tied to the opioid crisis, Rutherford is taking matters into its own hands. With some help, that is, from some seriously big hired guns. 

The county recently filed suit against Purdue Pharma L.P., Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Insys Therapeutics Inc., and a spate of other drug makers and distributors alleging public nuisance and violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Rutherford’s action came on the heels of similar claims filed by New York City, Philadelphia,and a host of other local authorities. In fact, since January alone, opioid suits on behalf of more than 170 cities and counties from 23 different states have been filed in, or transferred to, federal court, according to Bloomberg Law data. 

The latest actions join hundreds of other suits pending in federal consolidated proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, the bulk of which have been brought by cities and counties. A number of other local government suits also are pending in state courts.…

Oversight of the municipal contracts may be one source for future litigation.

“To my knowledge, there are no state laws that track the hiring of outside counsel by cities and counties,” [executive with the Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform in Washington] Quigley said.

But Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy at New York Law School, said concerns about county and local governments’ contingent-fee arrangements are overblown.

The center, a consumer-oriented organization “dedicated to protecting our civil justice system,” tracks contingent-fee laws governing public contracts.

“Private attorneys have been used by attorneys general going back to the English common law, but companies don’t like having to pay back taxpayers for the damage they’ve caused,” Doroshow said.

“And remember, the taxpayer doesn’t pay their fees,” she said. “That comes out of the settlement.”

Click here for the full article.

Join Our Fight!

The Center for Justice & Democracy is the only national consumer organization in the country exclusively dedicated to protecting our civil justice system. If you'd like more information, please contact us.

Connect with us