RELATED: Butler County $5 million opiate lawsuit will proceed
These lawsuits were part of more than 2,600 federal lawsuits that were consolidated before U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. As these lawsuits have been filed, one of the most difficult questions has been how any multi-billion settlements should be fairly divided up.
This matter had appeared to be resolved when a unique “negotiating class” was certified in September, which would let every one of the roughly 30,000 local governments join together to settle with members of the opioid industry, with local governments having the option to opt out and pursue their own suits.
However, now meetings are under way in Columbus among lawyers representing Ohio’s local governments in the federal lawsuit, trying to get a “super majority” of locals to agree to a settlement proposal, sources said.
A deal could allow drug makers and distributors to strike one large settlement in Ohio, rather than hundreds of individual ones.
RELATED: How cities and counties could reach giant opioid settlement
The lawsuits allege the pharmaceutical industry knowingly employed misleading marketing tactics and failed to track suspicious orders, which contributed to the opioid epidemic.
Local governments began filing suit in 2014 and have argued that the opioid addiction crisis overloaded first responders, local clinics and jails, the child welfare system and the court system. Families have lost loved ones, businesses have lost employees and communities have spent millions of dollars trying to fend of the devastating public-health crisis.
These settlements are local and state governments’ big chance to recoup some of those massive costs.
In 2018, 3,764 Ohioans died of unintentional drug overdoses, a decrease of 1,090 compared to 2017 and the lowest number of deaths since 2015, according to state health data.
THE STORY SO FAR
PREVIOUSLY: Over the last two years, the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and Butler County joined more than 2,600 other plaintiffs suing opioid makers, distributors and retailers. In September, attorneys a judge approved a unique framework that allowed local jurisdictions to group negotiate.
WHAT'S NEW: Sources confirm Ohio state and local governments are working together on a massive settlement to resolve the different suits.
WHAT'S NEXT: Sources say the deal could be announced soon.