Many people around the country are suing opioid companies for their role in the ongoing opioid crisis. And in some places, it’s creating a flurry of legal activity.
This is certainly true in Ohio. And now, in the midst of all this, some Ohio lawmakers are trying to restructure the process through which people sue opioid companies.
Specifically, Ohio is considering a proposal to consolidate all lawsuits into a single, state-wide suit. Proponents say it would streamline the process. Additionally, they say the bill would allow the state to allocate funds from the lawsuits more efficiently.
But opponents are worried the bill could turn into a power grab by the state, potentially taking settlement funds away from those who need it and sending it to the state instead.
Ohio Lawmakers Considering New Bill for Opioid Lawsuits
As reported by The Center Square, the new proposal is largely in response to the growing number of lawsuits pending in Ohio. Specifically, there are now more than 100 opioid-related lawsuits in the state.
If the bill passes, it would give the Ohio attorney general a couple key new powers. First, it would authorize the state attorney general to dismiss all individual cases. Then from there, the attorney general would have the ability to consolidate all individual cases into a single suit filed by the state of Ohio.
Further downstream, the state would also handle any settlement money. This means that money from the consolidated lawsuit would go directly to the state, which would then disburse funds from there.
The proposed piece of legislation was drafted and presented by three Republican lawmakers. So far, the proposal has been endorsed by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Despite this support, Governor Mike DeWine has already said he would veto the bill if it passes.
So far, it seems unclear whether or not the legislation will advance. And opinions on the proposal remain split.
On one hand, advocates for the idea claim it will make it easier to go after opioid companies. Additionally, Attorney General Yost told The Center Square that the proposal would formalize the ways that local and state governments work together to address problems related to opioids.
“Cities and counties that individually race to the courthouse, hoping for the luck of the draw and attempting to get any money that they can, are grasping for power,” Yost said. “This is a state claim with statewide impact and should not be divided amongst political subdivisions.”
He added: “A consolidated claim allows for broad representation in this fight for the greater good so that we can fairly deliver equitable relief to communities based on impact.”
Other see it as a state overreach. Specifically, some think the proposal will get in the way of those seeking legal action against opioid companies.
“This legislation is a bad idea,” Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told The Center Square. “Any recovery belongs to the people in Ohio communities who are seeking redress for the destruction and devastation caused by the opioid manufacturers and distributors, and those communities are perfectly capable of deciding how to use the money from any recovery.”