Opioid makers face lawsuits

Image from a report in The Atlantic, 6/2/17, "Are Pharmaceutical Companies to Blame for the Opioid Epidemic?"

Image from a report in The Atlantic, 6/2/17, “Are Pharmaceutical Companies to Blame for the Opioid Epidemic?

Gripped by the tragic toll of prescription drug overdoses, states, municipalities and labor unions are suing opioid manufacturers.

“Philadelphia-area union workers are joining a wave of litigation against opioid manufacturers after losing eight members to addiction in 11 months,” Policy and Medicine reported in an Oct. 18, 2017 update.

“In addition to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98 (IBEW) said it is preparing to file a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that have contributed to the growing opioid crisis.” Other local and national unions may join a class action suit, the site reported.

A coalition of 41 states’ attorneys general also served five major opioid manufacturers with subpoenas “seeking information about how these companies marketed and sold prescription opioids,” according to the update. “The coalition is also demanding documents and information related to distribution practices from three drug distributors.”

Many point to the tobacco industry as precedent for these lawsuits, when, in 1998, tobacco manufacturers, 46 states and six other jurisdictions entered into the largest civil-litigation settlement agreement in U.S. history.

“Some attorneys general and advocates are now asking in court whether the pharmaceutical companies who marketed the drugs and downplayed their addictive nature can be held legally responsible for—and made to pay for the consequences of—the crisis,” reports the Atlantic.

However, some legal experts say that the courts may not see it that way. According to that report, “With the tobacco-industry lawsuits, customers were using the product as instructed and got sick. With opioids it’s a different story: Customers are not using the pills as directed, and so it is harder to blame the pharmaceutical companies for the effects of that misuse, according to Lars Noah, a professor of law at the University of Florida. In addition, doctors, not consumers, were the ones targeted by the aggressive marketing campaigns undertaken by pharmaceutical companies, so it can be difficult to link consumer deaths with aggressive marketing.”

 

High-Profile Civil Lawsuit Sours 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner has written about some of the controversies plaguing the National Park Service in its 100th anniversary year. Everything from sexual harassment by NPS Grand Canyon river guides (complete with up-skirt photography charges and withholding food for sex), to the Office of Inspector General compelling National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his career, to a contract dispute with a former long-time concessionaire is souring what was to be a year-long victory lap by the NPS. It’s at The Huffington Post here: For Parks Service, Yosemite Re-naming Is Latest Shock In 100th Birthday Year.

Legal Weed Still Brings Plenty Of Court Action

As criminal actions against marijuana users and growers diminish in “legal” states like Colorado and Washington and in more than 30 “medical marijuana” states like California, there has been a new crop of civil litigation. For example, in Riverside County, California the county is facing litigation over a new law that authorities said is a “crackdown the proliferation of large-scale, for-profit marijuana farms” in their communities.
 
Those operations are usually cooperatives, where many people will combine their rights to create a larger operation. More than a dozen lawsuits are underway to sort out regulatory questions. But medical pot providers say the civil actions amount to another way to shut them down. Read about that in The Riverside Enterprise newspaper.
 
Up in Washington state, a prosecutor in King County named Dan Satterberg argues that medical pot shops have been selling marijuana illegally for years and that will end soon after he serves lawsuits to 15 collectives in unincorporated parts of the county in the coming days. For years, the NW Cannabis Collective catered to its clients seeking medicine for pain and other conditions.
 
NW Cannabis CEO Michael Keysor said, “Most of these patients have been given up on by doctors. They have no answers for them.” This month, he received a letter from authorities telling him to shut down or be sued. He says a forced closure will kill his business for good. Again, the authorities are using civil leverage to advance their goals, and you can find Channel 13 TV coverage of that situation here.

S.F And L.A. Sue Uber Car Service

If district attorneys from two big cities think you or I are breaking the law, they send the cops. But if you are a company valued at $40 billion, they send the civil attorneys. The San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets are reporting that “… both San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys filed a consumer protection lawsuit against on-demand ride service Uber on Tuesday, saying it misleads customers about driver background checks and violates state laws about airport rides and calculating fares.”
 
The newspaper reports that Uber’s rival service Lyft settled similar allegations and agreed to pay up to $500,000 in civil fines.
 
“Uber refused to comply with straightforward Caifornia laws to protect consumers from harm,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference. “Companies can be innovative without harming consumers.”
 
Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend had a different take: “Californians and California lawmakers all agree — Uber is an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State…”
 

Asbestos Litigation Summit Tackles Issues of Trust

CCM Publisher Sara Warner lights up the Huffington Post again with her latest blog. 

The insular and well-heeled world of American asbestos litigation is gathering atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill this week for what amounts to an annual current-events snapshot, and this year things may get a bit testy in the industry triangle of plaintiff attorneys, defense firms and insurance companies. Read More.

Clients Need a ‘Bill of Rights’ argues CCM Publisher in HuffPo

California Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Warner, makes an argument for a “Client Bill of Rights” to protect clients in civil litigation today in the Huffington Post.

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

In her post, she states:

“We hear about personal injury cases being “bundled” with other cases to increase settlements, often without client knowledge. We hear that some attorneys distribute settlement money based on which client arrangements benefit them most. We hear about lawyers creating companies, like document courier services, that they use to drive up the “expenses” they can deduct from client payments…Hopefully, if true, these are rare events. A solid bill of rights might help keep them that way.”

Read the HuffPo piece here and join in the conversation.