Opioid Lawsuits

Dozens of cities and 73 of Ohio’s 88 counties have signed on to a statewide opioid plan for potential settlements with drug companies, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office announced Wednesday.

The OneOhio plan would direct 30 percent of total settlement dollars to local governments. A statewide foundation would handle 55 percent and the remaining 15 would go to the attorney general’s office.

The foundation’s board would include members representing state officials and local jurisdictions.

Northeast Ohio local governments are weighing whether to join Attorney General Dave Yost’s One Ohio plan for dividing state opioid settlement money from drug companies.

The proposal would create a statewide foundation, run by both state and local appointees, to distribute 55 percent of any settlement dollars. Another 30 percent would go directly to local governments. The attorney general’s office would receive 15 percent.

Cuyahoga County Council took a deeper look Monday into the $23 million plan to fund drug treatment, a new drug court, a jail diversion center and other with the first wave of money paid out by drug companies to settle lawsuits over the opioid crisis.

Weekly Reporter Roundtable

Feb 24, 2020
Attorney General Dave Yost speaks at a press conference in 2018.
Karen Kasler / Statehouse News Bureau

Ohio’s governor, attorney general and dozens of local governments are getting close to a final deal on how to split up a potentially massive settlement with drug makers from lawsuits filed over the opioid crisis.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine handles a box of Narcan during a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo / Associated Press

Gov. Mike DeWine says he is cautiously satisfied with the terms of a potential massive settlement against drug companies and distributors who have been accused of enabling the opioid crisis.

Michele Rout is an assistant law director in the city of Chillicothe, one of the places in Ohio hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

But her experience with the human toll of the crisis goes beyond the courtroom.

Rout and her husband are raising two grandchildren who were exposed to opioids before birth and experienced symptoms of withdrawal afterward — a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Summit County Council has approved spending $104 million in opioid settlement funds, but a committee that will determine how to use the money won't be fully formed until the spring. So it sits, unspent.

Greta Johnson, assistant chief of staff to County Executive Ilene Shapiro, said federal Judge Dan Polster has made it clear this should be spent more responsibly than tobacco settlement money from the 1990s.

In this May 30, 2019, file photo, a CVS store with the new HealthHUB is shown in Spring, Texas.
David J. Phillips / AP

A series of pharmacy chains argued in federal court that doctors and other health care practitioners who write prescriptions bear ultimate responsibility for improper distribution of opioids to patients, rather than the pharmacists who are obliged to fill those prescriptions.

Legal battles over the opioid crisis will carry on into 2020, as several more cases begin to move toward trial in federal courts around the country.

After overseeing thousands of opioid lawsuits from his Cleveland courtroom for the past two years, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has begun sending cases to other federal judges. Polster has recommended that suits brought by the Cherokee Nation, city of Chicago and San Francisco be moved to federal courts in Oklahoma, Illinois and California.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) unveil new cameras installed in a committee room in March.
Andy Chow / Statehouse News Bureau

Both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Ohio House say that voters won't see a constitutional amendment proposed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Dave Yost speaks at the Ohio Republican Party event, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Yost was elected as the next Ohio attorney general.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

The Ohio Attorney General's office has crafted a proposal that would put guardrails around potential opioid lawsuit settlement money to make sure the funds are used specifically for the opioid epidemic.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster has added a new opioid trial to the calendar, this one litigating Cuyahoga and Summit counties’ claims against pharmacy chains.

Polster, who is overseeing the thousands of opioid-related lawsuits, set a trial date of Oct. 13, 2020 in an order issued Tuesday.

The two counties are amending their lawsuits to accuse pharmacies of failing to look out for suspicious prescriptions for opioid painkillers, with the judge’s approval.

The nationwide opioid lawsuits are far from over.

After last month’s settlement with drug makers and distributors, lawyers for Cuyahoga and Summit counties are focusing on the next set of defendants: pharmacies.

At the start of this month, attorneys for the two counties asked the court permission to add new claims against pharmacies to their lawsuits. The claims accuse pharmacy chains of failing to look out for suspicious opioid prescriptions.

At MetroHealth Medical Center, Christopher Hall offers patients struggling with addiction something unique: common ground.

Hall is a certified peer supporter with Thrive Peer Support, an Ohio recovery organization. He’s part of a team of people at MetroHealth who have been through the rigors of addiction recovery themselves. They help patients facing addiction find treatment when it is time to leave the hospital.

Cuyahoga and Summit County leaders say they plan to spend the tens of millions already awarded in opioid settlements on drug treatment and prevention programs.

Both counties released plans for the settlement money Thursday, less than two weeks before they both take their claims against the drug industry to trial in federal court in Cleveland. The two counties will be the first among thousands of plaintiffs to make their case before a jury in the massive case.

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