Opioid Litigation

Since 1999, the amount of opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled. Over that same time period, the number of deaths from prescription opioids have also more than quadrupled. From 1999 to 2019, nearly 500,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses involving opioids.

As hundreds of thousands of people suffered from the metastasizing opioid epidemic, attorneys at Simmons Hanly Conroy took notice and effectively invented large-scale, multi-defendant opioid litigation against drug manufacturers. In 2003, the firm commenced groundbreaking opioid litigation and went toe-to-toe against pharmaceutical giants, becoming the only major plaintiffs’ firm in the country at the time to prosecute and hold drug manufacturers accountable for the havoc they wreaked on individuals, families and governmental entities throughout the country.

Simmons Hanly Conroy continues to lead the way in opioid litigation against drug manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies. The firm is proud to serve as a trusted ally to local and state governments who need help covering the often debilitating costs associated with fighting the opioid crisis on a county and city level.

Simmons Hanly Conroy no longer represents individual opioid cases right now. Currently we only represent cities, counties and tribal sovereign nations in opioid litigation. 

How Did We Get Here?

The National Institutes of Health identified drug companies’ “aggressive marketing” as a major contributor to the nation’s opioid-abuse problem. Their deceptive and fraudulent marketing campaigns misrepresented the safety and efficacy of long-term use.

Despite a lack of scientific evidence that supports the use of opioids for long-term pain management, nearly 254 million prescriptions have been issued since 1999. That’s enough to medicate every U.S. adult around the clock for one month.

Communities Filing Opioid Lawsuits

Local and state governments should not have to grapple with the costs associated with treating the opioid epidemic alone. Municipalities and counties across the country are now pursuing legal damages related to lost productivity, health insurance, criminal justice, substance abuse treatment and more — all caused by the opioid epidemic.

In ongoing opioid litigation against manufacturers, distributors, retail pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies and physicians, Simmons Hanly Conroy currently represents over 250 counties and cities in the following states:

  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Louisiana
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Wisconsin
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Wisconsin

The end goal of this litigation and others like it is to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for the costs communities incur as a result of the opioid epidemic.

Communities Filing Opioid Lawsuits background image

A Timeline of Success in Opioid Litigation

Simmons Hanly Conroy is the most qualified law firm in the country to undertake opioid litigation on behalf of governmental entities and institutions. The firm effectively invented large-scale, multi-defendant opioid litigation and has not stepped away from the frontlines of this litigation since.

Learn more about our involvement in opioid litigation over the years in the timeline below.

2003-2006: Initial Lawsuit Against Purdue for OxyContin

When the firm led the crusade in 2003, we held Purdue Pharma LLP and Abbott Laboratories, Inc., accountable for damages suffered by more than 5,000 clients prescribed the prescription opioid OxyContin.

Following a three-plus-year battle that included the firm separately filing more than 1,200 cases in various courts across the country, Purdue Pharma settled all 5,000-plus of the clients’ claims.

Evidence the firm uncovered during discovery proved the full extent of Purdue’s criminality. It was subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice and used in its prosecution of Purdue and its executives, leading to a fine of more than $600 million. Several executives also pleaded guilty to misbranding violations and had to personally pay millions of dollars in fines.

July 2014: Simmons Firm Merges with Hanly Conroy

After Simmons and Hanly Conroy had been co-counsel partners for over a decade, the two law firms of Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC and Hanly Conroy Bierstein Sheridan Fisher & Hayes LLP merged in July 2014, becoming Simmons Hanly Conroy.

“Twenty years ago, Hanly Conroy reached out to John Simmons for assistance in thousands of cases brought around the country against Purdue Pharma on behalf of victims,” said Shareholder Jayne Conroy. “The case was successful, and the firms worked together well and embarked on several more mass tort joint ventures. In 2014, the firms formally merged and opioids soon again became a focus of our litigation.”

August 2016: Suffolk County, NY Lawsuit Against Drug Companies Over Opioid Epidemic

With Shareholder Paul Hanly serving as lead counsel for Suffolk County, Simmons Hanly Conroy filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors for their aggressive and fraudulent marketing of prescription opioids, which contributed to the drug epidemic in this country.

“Drug companies have manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids as pain relievers by misrepresenting or omitting key information about the appropriate uses, risks and safety of the drugs,” Hanly said. “The defendants in this case have long known about the addictive qualities and other risks associated with prolonged use of opioids, and they must be held accountable for the misrepresentations and the harms to society as a result.”

January 2018: Shareholder Paul Hanly Appointed Co-Lead in Federal Opioid Litigation

A federal judge appointed Shareholder Paul Hanly as co-lead counsel in the national multidistrict litigation pending against pharmaceutical companies, including manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies,  involved in the marketing of prescription opioid painkillers.

Because of his extensive experience in litigation against opioid manufacturers, Hanly worked with his two co-lead counsels to manage the federal litigation and oversee nearly 100 other law firms representing plaintiffs in more than 200 docketed opioid cases.

“I am honored to have been appointed by Judge Polster to such a significant position in this litigation, which involves so many issues that are critical to the public health of our communities nationwide,” said Hanly.  “It is vital we hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their roles in the nation’s ongoing drug crisis and epidemic.”

August 2019: Shareholder Jayne Conroy Appointed Co-Lead of Negotiation Class in Federal Opioid Litigation

Because of her “significant and impressive experience in leadership roles in mass tort MDLs,” U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio appointed Shareholder Jayne Conroy interim co-lead counsel for a proposed negotiation class in the national multidistrict litigation pending against pharmaceutical companies involved in the marketing of prescription opioid painkillers.

In this role, Conroy will represent the class of American communities that seeks to reach nationwide opioid settlements with defendants in the litigation.

“I am honored to have been appointed to such a significant position in this critical litigation,” Conroy said. “Every day counts in the lives of the victims of the opioid crisis, and I look forward to beginning my service immediately.”

September 2019: Judge Approves Negotiation Class for Over 34,000 American Communities

Federal Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio certified an “innovative” negotiation class that includes over 34,000 cities and counties across the U.S. seeking reimbursement for funds they have expended and continue to expend in relation to the opioid crisis.

Judge Polster also appointed Shareholder Jayne Conroy as co-lead counsel of the class. Both co-leads and the class counsel have the authority to negotiate settlements with the 13 pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies named in the federal opioid multidistrict litigation.

“Today’s decision clears the way for all towns, cities, and counties in our country to not only negotiate with the opioid industry but to use their joint bargaining power to secure the resources they need to fund addiction, recovery, and prevention efforts in their own neighborhoods,” said Conroy and co-lead Christopher Seeger.

October 2019: First Opioid Bellwether Trial Resolves for $325 Million in Total Settlements

Co-lead counsels, including Shareholder Paul Hanly, negotiated $325 million in total opioid settlements on behalf of Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio. The settlements avoided what would have been the first trial in the opioid multidistrict litigation.

The defendants included:

  • Allergan
  • AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.
  • Cardinal Health Inc.
  • Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Henry Schein, Inc.
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals
  • McKesson Corp.
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

“This hard-fought victory for these two counties is just the first step in what we hope will be the ultimate resolution of the largest public health crisis in recent memory,” said Hanly. “These companies now must accept full responsibility and do something significant to clean up the horrific mess they caused in communities across the country.”

November 2020: $26 Billion Global Settlement Reached in National Prescription Opiates MDL

After more than a year of negotiation, four major opioid distributors and manufacturers agreed to a $26 billion settlement as part of the ongoing national prescription opiates multidistrict litigation (MDL). These drug companies included McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and Johnson & Johnson.

Shareholder Paul Hanly negotiated the deal with PEC co-leads Joe Rice (of Motley Rice) and Paul Farrell (of Farrell Law). The MDL represents local governments across the country that allege drug companies contributed to the opioid crisis by carelessly promoting painkillers and downplaying the risks of addiction.

“Our biggest win was an acknowledgment, through settlement, that distributors — and not just the more often cited Purdue Pharma — are also responsible for the opioid epidemic,” said Shareholder Jayne Conroy. “We owe it to our clients, here the municipal subdivisions who work daily to abate the epidemic, to identify and expose the liability of less well-known opioid industry participants.”

As Shareholder Paul Hanly noted, “This settlement will get needed funds to communities now, without waiting for lengthy and numerous trials across the country. It represents a significant step toward making reparations on behalf of these four companies, but there is still much more work to do as we continue ensuring drug companies take full responsibility and clean up the mess they made of American communities and lives.”

June 2021: First Opioid Jury Trial Begins in the State of New York

On June 28, opening statements in the New York opioid trial began, with Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Jayne Conroy representing plaintiffs in Suffolk County. This marks the first opioid case in the United States to be heard before a jury, who will collectively determine the outcome of the trial.

“We are going to be able to, for the first time, give our story to the jury of what has happened over the last two decades with respect to the promotion, the marketing of opioids, and the distribution of opioids that has created this massive flood throughout all our communities in the country,” said Shareholder Jayne Conroy. “We are starting here because the problem is terrible in Suffolk County, in Nassau County and the State of New York.”

July 2021: Suffolk County Approves $230 Million Johnson & Johnson Opioid Settlement

Suffolk County and Nassau County general legislatures approved a $230 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson as part of the ongoing consolidated opioid litigation in New York State. In addition to the settlement, the pharmaceutical manufacturer vowed to completely exit the opioid business as well.

“We are once again pleased to announce another major settlement with one of the manufacturers that played such a major role in creating the opioid crisis here in New York State and across the country,” said Shareholder Jayne Conroy, lead counsel for Suffolk County.

“Bringing these companies to the table through the litigation process is crucial to holding them accountable for their role in the opioid crisis,” she added. “We remain focused on the landmark trial that continues in New York State as we continue to show the public just how serious of a crisis the defendants have created.”

After this settlement, the remaining defendants in the opioid trial in New York include the:

  • Drug manufacturers Allergan, Teva and Endo
  • Distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and Anda

The New York State opioid case is in its early stages now and is expected to take 3-4 months. During this time, the jury will hear from dozens of witnesses including the county medical examiner, doctors, addiction experts and more.

Firm Leadership in Opioid Litigation

Simmons Hanly Conroy has an unparalleled track record in mass torts and other complex litigation, has an established presence nationwide, and has successfully prosecuted thousands of claims against two large drug companies manufacturing and selling prescription opioids.

We have the track record, staying power and resources needed to handle all phases of litigation for these cases, from investigation and filing a complaint to conducting discovery and proceeding through trial.

Firm Leadership in Opioid Litigation background image
Shareholder Paul J. Hanly (In Memory) background image

Shareholder Paul J. Hanly (In Memory)

For more than 40 years, Paul Hanly litigated, managed and tried numerous complex jury cases throughout the United States in virtually all areas of civil litigation. Hanly was a Simmons Hanly Conroy shareholder and experienced trial lawyer and litigator renowned for his exhaustive trial preparation, imaginative trial strategies and disarmingly effective cross-examinations.

During his work with the opioid litigation, Hanly:

  • Represented more than 5,000 individuals against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin
  • Was appointed by the court as the co-lead of the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee that oversaw the federal opioid litigation consolidated in the Northern District of Ohio
  • Helped secure a total recovery of $325 million for two Ohio counties in the first federal bellwether trial against the opioid manufacturers
  • Served as the lead of the consolidated opioid litigation in New York State Court
  • Helped negotiate a $26 billion global opioid settlement from four drug manufacturers and distributors
  • Held leadership roles in opioid litigation in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Connecticut state courts

“I have had the privilege to represent everyday people who have suffered serious injustices at the auspices of corporate America,” he said. “My firm is not afraid to stand up to big corporations and litigate these complex civil cases so that the people who truly need help have a strong voice in the legal system.”

In 2020, the National Law Journal awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award, in part, for his instrumental work on the opioid litigation. Hanly continued to work on the litigation until his passing in 2021.

Shareholder Jayne Conroy

With over 30 years of experience, Jayne Conroy is a shareholder of Simmons Hanly Conroy and a skilled legal strategist, trial lawyer and negotiator known for her ability to lead a case from inception to completion. She never loses sight of the strengths of her clients or the vulnerability of the defendants.

As an attorney, Conroy has significant pharmaceutical litigation experience and has represented thousands of plaintiffs who were injured by dangerous drugs and medical devices.

To help fight the opioid epidemic, Conroy has:

  • Helped represent more than 5,000 individuals against Purdue Pharma, who manufactures OxyContin
  • Implemented a successful discovery plan that uncovered evidence proving the full extent of Purdue’s criminality and deceptive marketing campaign
  • Occupied a key leadership role on the plaintiff trial team involving the bellwether trial in Cleveland
  • Served as court-appointed co-lead of the negotiation class of over 34,000 U.S. communities

“Every one of those communities has a story about how the opioid epidemic has devastated the families who live there,” said Conroy. “The opioid litigation allows us to get some relief to these communities faster, which could actually help someone who has not been hurt yet.”

Shareholder Jayne Conroy background image
Meet a Few of Our Opioid Attorneys background image

Meet a Few of Our Opioid Attorneys

Since the Pharma litigation concluded, Simmons Hanly Conroy has been routinely contacted about opioid litigation because the firm’s attorneys are uniformly acknowledged to be the most experienced in the country concerning the marketing and distribution of these dangerous drugs.

We have helped thousands of clients, including individuals, families, businesses and government entities in cases of corporate wrongdoing. Our attorneys have cumulative centuries of experience litigating against the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more about some of our firm’s opioid attorneys below.

Trusted Authority in the News

Simmons Hanly Conroy is regarded as an authority on opioid litigation and is often looked to for guidance in navigating the issue by respected news publications and other media. Shareholder Jayne Conroy is regularly contacted for her expertise and asked to participate in several panel discussions, conferences and webinars about opioid litigation — as was Shareholder Paul Hanly until his passing in 2021.

Here are a few of the publications that have covered Paul and Jayne’s work in opioid litigation:

WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY

“I appreciate the hard work of the Simmons firm. This outfit is something else. I did not expect to hear from them after everything was done, but they still call to check up on me.”

-Margaret

More testimonials

Opioid Litigation FAQs

What is opioid litigation and how does it affect counties?

State and local governments around the country have begun to file lawsuits against several major drug manufacturers (Purdue, Janssen, Endo, Cephalon and others), distributors and retail pharmacies (referred to as “Pharma”) for their role in creating the Opioid Epidemic.

These manufacturers flooded the market with highly addictive drugs, claiming they were safe and efficacious for long-term use, manufactured studies to support these false claims and knowingly misrepresented the addictive nature of these drugs. As a result of these misrepresentations, millions of Americans’ lives have been impacted or destroyed.

The Opioid Epidemic has, in turn, imposed huge costs on both county and state governments around the country including:

  • Health care costs
  • Substance abuse, treatment and prevention costs
  • Criminal justice costs and productivity costs

What is the economic impact of the Opioid Epidemic? 

While it’s still early in the investigation, studies have analyzed the economic impact of the Opioid Epidemic. In the most recent major study, published in 2016 by CDC researchers, the annual estimated economic burden of prescription opioid abuse in the United States was determined to be $78.4 Billion.

The projected economic impact of that $78.4 Billion figure was broken down as follows:

  • Lost Productivity: $42 Billion (53.3%)
  • Health Insurance: $26.1 Billion (33.3%)
  • Criminal Justice: $7.6 Billion (9.7%)
  • Substance Abuse Treatment: $2.8 Billion (3.6%)

As the epidemic has worsened, so has the economic burden. Indeed, a similar study in 2007 found the annual economic impact was $55.7 Billion.

And a recent 2017 study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that more than one third of U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized adults reported prescription opioid use, with substantial numbers reporting misuse and use disorders. As the problem has worsened since 2013, it’s expected that the impact has also worsened.

What is the goal of the opioid litigation?

The goal of the opioid litigation is to hold drug manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies responsible for their role in creating the Opioid Epidemic and to return to the counties the money spent battling the epidemic and the expense of other critical programming.

While it’s unrealistic to think that the lawsuit will solve the problem, Pharma should be responsible for funding solutions to a problem they created.

What kinds of costs would a lawsuit seek to recover?

The counties would seek repayment for the costs they have expended related to the Opioid Epidemic.

Those costs include but are not limited to:

  • County-funded health care costs for employees and dependents related to opioid addiction, substance abuse treatment, hospitalizations, etc.
  • County-funded programs for residents for prevention, treatment, health, and substance abuse programs
  • Criminal justice and law enforcement costs associated with opioids
  • Loss of county employee productivity related to opioid abuse and addiction
  • General societal mayhem and opioid-related death costs

Why should counties get involved in opioid litigation?

The only way to recover any of the significant costs the counties have faced as a result of drug manufacturers, distributors and retailers involved in the Opioid Epidemic is to bring suit.

Any county that does not get involved risks receiving no recovery. While recovery in this type of litigation is not certain, one certain way to get nothing is to stay out of the litigation.

What if counties don’t get involved in opioid litigation?

Counties who do not get involved will not get a recovery in the event that there is one.

Who will pay for the opioid litigation?

The counties will not be asked to bear the costs of the opioid litigation. The law firms proposing to represent the counties will work on a contingency fee basis (meaning they’ll only get paid out of a portion of the recovery if there is one) and bear all costs of the litigation.

Why coordinate efforts across counties in opioid litigation?

It will be very important to coordinate efforts both among counties in each state and between counties nationally. Government entities will face a well-financed, well-funded and well-coordinated defense from Pharma.

Unless a critical mass of counties not only file suit and coordinate efforts, it is a safe bet that Pharma will simply continue to fight each individual case without contemplating a resolution.

Simmons Support Team
Simmons Hanly ConroyWritten by:

Editorial Team

The Simmons Hanly Conroy Editorial Team consists of journalists, writers and editors who strive to deliver accurate and useful information to families needing legal help. Our team works alongside the firm's attorneys and shareholders, as well as with medical professionals and other specialists, to keep all information relevant and helpful.