Bill Would Give State Authority Over Local Lawsuits Against Drug Makers

Aug 28, 2019

The family behind one of the main drugs blamed for the nation’s opioid crisis has reportedly offered $12 billion to settle a huge federal lawsuit in Cleveland. A bill in the works would give Ohio authority over around 100 lawsuits in that case. 

There are 2,000 plaintiffs in that case, with around 100 different lawsuits filed by Ohio cities and counties that are in that total.

Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) says the bill is still being drafted and hasn’t been introduced. As a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, he sees value in having Attorney General Dave Yost take over all of the lawsuits.

“And when you have that, it is easier for the court to help resolve it, and it’s easier for the parties to be able to negotiate a binding settlement if they are going to do that or to bring in the resources of the state into the litigation to get the best outcome," Cupp says.

But local officials aren’t happy. That's especially so now that the Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, one of the main drugs blamed for the opioid crisis, has reportedly offered to settle the case for up to $12 billion for all 2000 cases. 

Louis Tobin, Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, says local prosecutors have done the heavy lifting so far and should be able to finish the job.

“We’re 50 or 51 days away from the first trial starting in Cleveland, we have the Sackler family making settlement offers and all of a sudden we have people in Columbus wanting to hit the reset button on this," Tobin says.

There are some in Columbus who don't like the idea of having the state take over the local lawsuits at this point. Gov. Mike DeWine is one of them.

“I think it would be a very serious mistake. I think it would be unfair to our local government partners who have borne such a very heavy part of this burden," DeWine says.

Yost has said he thinks cities and counties are – in his words – “grasping for power” in the federal case. That case is separate from the state’s lawsuit against drug companies, which was filed in Chillicothe. 

DeWine says he thinks any money the state gets from its own case should be dedicated to drug treatment, prevention efforts and local law enforcement.