Attorneys representing thousands of local governments across the U.S. recently announced a plan intended to settle lawsuits linked to the national opioid epidemic. Documents outlining the plan were filed in an Ohio federal court on June 14.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America's opioid addiction crisis has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people and cost the country billions of dollars. All the while, drug companies have raked in billions in profits. To address the problem, thousands of drug-ravaged communities have filed over 1,800 lawsuits against drug manufacturers, drug distributors and pharmacies seeking billions of dollars in compensation.
Under the proposed plan, around 24,000 counties, cities, villages and towns would be lumped into a single class that would have the right to negotiate financial settlements with drug manufacturers. Leaders from the communities would vote to approve or disapprove any proposed settlements, and leaders from the most populous communities would have the most voting clout. Deals earning the approval of 75% of the communities would be considered finalized, causing settlement payments to be sent out. Communities that have been hit especially hard by the crisis would have access to a separate emergency fund containing around 15% of the settlement funds. Attorneys for the drug companies are currently reviewing the proposal.
The opioid crisis has hit many Ohio communities very hard. Individuals facing drug charges for opioid use may turn to a criminal defense attorney for assistance. The attorney may work to protect a defendant's rights and do everything possible to get the charges dismissed. Another tactic might involve negotiating a plea deal that lets the defendant plead guilty to reduced charges, which may also lead to more lenient penalties. For instance, some defendants might be sentenced to a drug diversion program instead of jail.