WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Some of the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors will pay two Ohio counties nearly $300 million after settling a landmark federal lawsuit Monday morning involving opioids.
Now, experts said this case is expected to serve as a bellwether for other, even larger lawsuits involving opioids and the companies that make them.
Attorneys representing the two counties — Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County and Akron’s Summit County — said the settlement will begin to make things right.
Three drug distributors and a manufacturer will pay those counties roughly $260 million, but will not have to admit any wrongdoing as part of the deal.
“It’s a very important step, but it’s only a first step,” said Peter Meyers, law professor at George Washington University Law School.
Meyers said this is a test case to help establish liability in approximately 2,400 other lawsuits.
“So this is an indication that settlement is very desirable,” he said.
But it’s a complicated process ahead because those other lawsuits have been rolled into one massive, federal case.
“It’s going to be much more difficult, again, for all the other counties and the separate state attorneys general, to reach a settlement,” Meyers said.
While U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar couldn’t comment on Monday’s case specifically, he did say the administration’s primary goal is accountability.
“If the settlement is actual accountability and helps us get out of this opioid crisis, that’s great,” Azar said.
Attorneys said the settlement money will now help fight the epidemic itself.
“It’s definitely not adequate for all the things that need to be done to fix this problem, but it goes a low way,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.