Litigators Propose Innovative “Class” to Give 24,500 American Communities Strong Negotiation Power in Federal Opioid Litigation


Ground-breaking framework empowers counties & cities to hold defendants accountable while negotiating for resources required to abate opioid epidemic in their community

Cleveland — Today, the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PEC) in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation (NPOL) filed a motion to create a new, innovative class that will empower 24,500 American communities to negotiate with opioid manufacturers, distributors, and other similarly situated national defendants that are currently defendants in one of the most complex legal actions in U.S. history.

Given the scale and devastation of the opioid epidemic—an epidemic that the plaintiffs say was caused and exacerbated by these defendants—this class will by default include 5,000 counties and 19,500 “incorporated places” (cities, towns, villages, and municipalities) in the United States, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, unless they elect to opt-out. This Negotiation Class proposal is the plaintiffs’ solution to U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster’s call for a truly comprehensive, forward-looking, national, and voluntary resolution framework that enables local governments to fight for opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery funds.

This proposal, if accepted, would create a voting arrangement by which all the county and municipal entities in the United States will be able to participate collectively, through their representatives, in any settlement discussions with national opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies.

Paul J. Hanly Jr., of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Paul T. Farrell Jr., of Greene Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, LLP and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC; the co-leads of the MDL said:

“Time is of the essence in this litigation. American deaths related to opioids continue to rise, while the national life expectancy continues to fall. Cities and counties across the country continue to pour a substantial percentage of their budgets and resources into stemming this tide, protecting families, and aiding recovery. Joining all cities and counties in the country together as a Negotiation Class gives communities maximum negotiating power, makes the negotiation of potential nationwide settlements a more practical process, allows defendants to pursue complete resolution, and enables Class Members to vote on all resulting settlement offers.” 

Key Facts:

  • This is not a litigation class. Certification of the Negotiation Class will not be used to litigate or try any claim, in any court, against any of the defendants named in national opioid litigation. It does not affect the prosecution of existing actions filed against opioid manufacturers, opioid distributors, or pharmacies by Class members. And it will not stop any individual cases brought by cities and counties from proceeding or settling.
  • The Negotiation Class has important benefits for the Defendants as well. Once the Negotiation Class is confirmed, Defendants will be able to predict, with certainty, that any settlement reached with the Class will be binding for a known percentage of cities and counties. Defendants will not need to renegotiate innumerable settlements or face new lawsuits from counties and cities that have not yet filed.
  • All Class members will have the right to opt-out of the proposed Negotiation Class after receiving a Court-approved Class Notice after the proposed class structure receives preliminary approval from the Court.
  • Under the proposed Negotiation Class, there will be a voting process that can approve a proposed settlement if more than 75% of voting class members approve the proposed settlement, based on 75% supermajorities of litigating and non-litigating counties and municipal bodies by number and population.
  • Each potential Class member may determine its allocation of any potential settlement at the County level by utilizing the Settlement Allocation Map and Calculator posted on the Negotiation Class Website – which will become available to the public when the notice period starts.
  • For more information on negotiation class process, allocation formula, supermajority voting mechanism and fees, see pages 15 – 26 in the plaintiffs’ memorandum.