The Wichita City council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution to join a nationwide multi-district lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Wichita City Attorney Jennifer Magana spoke to the city council about why the city should consider the resolution allowing the city to join the lawsuit.
“The city would join multi-district litigation as a plaintiff to seek monetary damages against multiple defendants incurred as a result of the economic burden of the opioid crisis,” said Magana.
Wichita law firm Hutton & Hutton will represent the city in the lawsuit. According to Magana, the city was approached by many law firms about representing the city in a case against opioid manufacturers.
“The staff decided it was something to pursue,” said Magana.
The staff screened local law firms and picked Hutton & Hutton to represent the city. The city council approved a contingency fee for Hutton & Hutton of 20% after costs and fees are deducted. The multidistrict lawsuit is centered in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2017 a federal panel of three judges consolidated a number of lawsuits into one. In 2017 there were more than 46 cases as part of the National Prescription Opiate Litigation. Wichita would potentially increase that number with a lawsuit of their own.
Magana sais that the retaining of Hutton & Hutton on a contingency does not cost the city.
“No hard cost to the city but it is a question of how much staff time would be required to gather the records to determine costs and gather documentation.”
However, there is no guarantee that the city would benefit in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors, and even pharmacies. Mayor Jeff Longwell asked how the lawsuit is potentially different than the large judgment Oklahoma received last week against Johnson & Johnson. Andrew Hutton explained that the State of Oklahoma filed suit against a number of pharmaceutical companies. Should the city bring a lawsuit it would be in Federal court against manufacturers and distributors.
The purpose for a lawsuit from the city would be to recoup costs incurred as a result of opioid abuse within the city. There are few details as to what kind of costs has been incurred by the city so far. In the resolution, the city is clear about pursuing damages from the contributors.
The giants in the opioid industry are potentially seeking to settle a number of lawsuits. According to NPR talks are underway between some of the larger drug companies and Judge Dan Polster of the judge overseeing the sprawling federal lawsuit that Wichita would become a part of.