Manatee County Government Administrative Center Honorable Patricia M. Glass Chambers, First Floor 9:00 a.m. - November 19, 2019
November 19, 2019 - Regular Meeting
Agenda Item #90

Update on opioid litigation

Briefing Provided Upon Request

Contact and/or Presenter Information
Mitchell O. Palmer, County Attorney, ext. 3750

Action Requested
I move to remain in the Negotiation Class in the matter of  In re:  National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804 (N.D. Ohio).

Enabling/Regulating Authority
  • Section 125.01, Florida Statutes
  • Rules 23(b)(3) and 23(c)(4), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Background Discussion

Manatee County filed its lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida on January 18, 2019.  The County's case was transferred to the Northern District of Ohio and consolidated in in the Multi-District Litigation (MDL) on February 4, 2019.  As of today, Manatee County is among more than 2,000 local governments around the country that have filed such lawsuits.

The County is represented by a consortium of outside law firms, with the team headed up by the Romano Law Group based in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The County has a contingent fee agreement with the lawyers that calls for the legal team to receive 20% of any gross recovery before trial, 22% after a trial and 25% after any post-judgment appeal.  The consortium of law firms that represents Manatee County also represents 15 additional Florida counties and 16 Florida cities.

The County's lawsuit names 29 defendants, to include manufacturers, distributors and retailers.  The more significant defendants are Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Parmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen, and CVS Health Corp.  The primary theory of liability surrounds alleged deceptive marketing practices on the part of the various defendants, wherein the need for opioids was overstated and the addictiveness of opioids was understated.  This in turn led to the well-documented national opioid death and dependency crisis that has cost local governments many millions of dollars to deal with.

The vast majority of lawsuits brought by local governments have been consolidated into the MDL in Ohio.  Federal District Judge Dan Polster is presiding.

On September 15, 2019, Purdue Pharma, the largest of the various manufacturers and the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  It is much too early to predict the fallout from this development, but it is anticipated that some form of monetary settlement for the aggrieved local governments will result from the reorganization of the company.

A "bellwether" jury trial beginning on October 16, 2019, involving the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit, was resolved just hours before opening statements were to commence on October 21.  A combination of four defendants (Teva, McKesson, Amerisource and Cardinal Health) reached a $260 million dollar settlement with the two counties.  This is generally viewed as a positive development for negotiation and settlement prospects for other local governments.  Johnson & Johnson was no longer a part of that case, having reached a separate settlement with the two counties for $20.4 million--approximately 3 weeks before trial.

In the meantime, Judge Polster has created a Negotiation Class which will comprise all cities and counties that have sued, excepting those cities and counties that affirmatively choose to be excluded.

Attached are (1) a letter from our outside counsel dated September 25, 2019, explaining the Negotiation Class and recommending that Manatee County remain in the Class, and (2) the Class Action Notice with Frequently Asked Questions and an attached Exclusion Request Form..

County Attorney Mitchell Palmer will provide additional commentary and answer any questions the Board of County Commissioners may have.



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Attachment:  Letter from Romano Law Group.pdf
Attachment:  Class Action Notice and Frequently Asked Questions.pdf