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States turn to mass torts to address the opioid crisis

On Behalf of | Sep 20, 2020 | Mass tort |

The opioid crisis in America has inspired state governments, law enforcement, medical practitioners and individuals to find creative solutions. The war on drugs has shown that punishing people suffering from substance abuse does not work. Punishing small-scale suppliers also does little to address the bigger problem. 

Consequently, state governments are now turning to mass tort to get compensation. Forbes explains that states are now taking a similar approach to the asbestos mass tort cases that sprang up years ago. However, several states are pursuing claims against big pharmaceutical companies on their own. 

Opioid settlements awarded so far

When states pursue individual, mass tort cases, risks run high. Some states walk away with hundreds of millions, while others only receive a few million. Oklahoma received $200 million in its settlement from Purdue Pharma. Meanwhile, West Virginia received only $10 million. Kentucky did a little better in 2013 with a $24 million settlement. 

Cases still unfiled and pending

Forbes also notes that even when states do not get the outcome they hoped for, there are still other big players who could make claims. These include corporations in the health care industry, such as hospitals. It is possible that individual victims may also combine complaints into mass tort cases. 

Oklahoma remains a shining example

The American Bar Association states that in 2019, Oklahoma brought a suit against John & Johnson. It accused the company of using misleading marketing tactics when pushing its opioid products. The state received $465 million. This was far below the $17.5 billion it requested to help pay for its recovery from the opioid crisis, but Oklahoma has outshined other American states, so far. 

Onlookers speculate that Kentucky and other states may soon resume efforts to reclaim awards. This stems from the fact that the opioid crisis only continues to grow worse and states face huge burdens to compensate for this.