AG Nessel files amicus brief supporting a state's ability to coordinate opioid litigation

In support of efforts to address the opioid crisis, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last Friday filed a motion and amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, supporting the state of Ohio’s request to halt trials that would address legal claims filed by two Ohio counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma. The two county cases are part of the sprawling multi-district litigation pending in the Northern District of Ohio.

Joined by 13 other attorneys general (Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas), last Friday’s brief supports Ohio’s efforts to prevent the trials from proceeding based on the concern that it may prejudice the ability of the state to manage litigation to obtain relief on behalf of the entire state, rather than simply the particular counties named in the lawsuit.

“The opioid crisis has devastated communities in every state and territory of our nation. It’s essential that financial relief to address the needs of these communities be provided as quickly as possible,” said Nessel. “This requires working with stake holders at all levels of government to coordinate efforts to provide these resources to everyone. A decision in favor of these two counties could be devastating to a state’s ability to seek claims on behalf of its entire population.”

The brief makes two main points in support of Ohio’s efforts to prevent the trials to proceed against Purdue Pharma. First, the brief argues that the state, not its subordinate local governments, is the sovereign – as represented by the attorney general – that is invested with the authority to vindicate the interests that affect the entire state. Second, any awards that arise from parties responsible for creating the opioid crisis should be managed by the state to ensure a fair and effective distribution of resources.

“Ohio has taken an important step to ensure that states are provided with the authority to litigate for relief on behalf of the entire state and not be forced to play second chair to individual local governments that have only their more narrow interests in mind,” said Nessel.  “In Michigan, we have 83 counties, more than 1,240 townships and several hundreds of individual cities and villages.  The state of Michigan’s role as the sovereign actor in any such litigation should be recognized for each and every state in the nation so as to ensure that all states are able to represent their entire population, and so that some communities do not receive a windfall while others receive nothing.”

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