Opioid Class Actions Trending Down

Bruce Burk

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – With all the news surrounding the opioid crisis, we have seen many parties consider forming class actions to bring lawsuits against companies like Purdue Pharma. However, new evidence suggests that parties are opting to bring individual lawsuits instead of proceeding with class actions.

Many of the parties in these opioid lawsuits are local governments who have decided that it may not be in their interest to participate in the massive litigation cases that involve other states, companies, and government entities.

In fact, 98 percent of local governments involved have agree to be part of these class action lawsuits. However, 541 local governments have opted out of these cases including Palm Beach County in Florida.

These lawsuits allege that drug makers aggressively marketed opioids and stores failed to warn consumers of the possible dangers of these substances, including the possibility for addiction.

Typically, class members will be given the right to opt out of a settlement reached in a class action so that they can pursue independent lawsuits. If a settlement is reached, a large portion of the class has to approve it.

The problem with resolving things in such a large class action is that different areas of the country have different goals and expectations. People in California might feel a lot different about what has to be included in the settlement than people in South Carolina.

If you are in a county that was largely unaffected by the opioid crisis, you may want to just remain in the class because bringing your own action can cost you time and money. But different parties value different things and may have their own reasons for wanting to bring independent actions.

For example, not everyone’s goal in litigation is money. Some people want to have their story heard. If you are a small town that has families who had deaths due to addiction to opioids, maybe you value being able to tell your story to the jury over the pharmaceutical companies checkbook. Maybe you want to see the company brought to justice in the form of an actual judgment or verdict.

Moreover, maybe a party values control over the litigation. If you are part of a class action, you have to go with the waves of the class. If you bring your own lawsuit, then you can control when and how the lawsuit is brought.

Another advantage is that you would get to control the evidence. Maybe you have certain people who want to be called as witnesses who were impacted by dangerous opioids. Perhaps you have specific documents, video or other evidence and you want your state or local government to be in control of how the evidence is presented.

Finally, it may be easier to settle with parties individually than with a large class of parties. For example, if it is just one party who wants a smaller amount of money, the defendants may be willing to cut a deal individually because the amount of money involved is smaller than the millions or billions of dollars it would take to settle the class action.

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