The Porter County
Commissioners approved a legal services agreement with Indianapolis-based
law firm Cohen & Malad LLP at its meeting yesterday, signaling Porter
County’s entry into a federal multi-district lawsuit against manufacturers
and distributors of opioids.
The lawsuit alleges
that deceptive marketing practices and overprescribing resulting from those
practices have caused the widespread opioid crisis many Indiana
municipalities currently face. Porter County joins several communities the
firm is representing, including Lake and LaPorte Counties and the City of
partner at Cohen & Malad, said, “It’s now basically well recognized, and I
would like to say undisputed, that the opioid crisis we’re experiencing lies
at the feet of the manufacturers and the distributors of opioids.”
Shevitz said that
20 years ago it was unheard of for opioids to be prescribed for anything
other than end of life care or invasive surgeries. Now, “Opioids are
prescribed much more broadly, and as a result, opioid addiction has spread
manufacturers and distributors are responsible for spikes in the
prescription of opioids, so much so that there were 107 opioid prescriptions
for every 100 Porter County residents in 2012. “You don’t have to be a
doctor to know something is wrong with that.”
“It begins with the
manufacturers who make money, and the distributors on the other side are
just as culpable,” Shevitz said.
Scott McClure said Porter County has nothing to lose in the suit because
Cohen & Malad will only be paid contingent upon a win, in which case they
are entitled to a percentage of the settlement.
said that Porter County’s proximity to Chicago and population density make
it a unique addition to the lawsuit. Factors like the cost of incarceration
and community-based services for those addicted will be considered for
addition to a fact sheet for Cohen & Malad. The firm is attempting to
collect data from every municipality it has had contact with, even if it
declined to enter the lawsuit.
All the cases have
been rolled into a multi-district lawsuit and are pending in an Ohio federal
district court, where Shevitz said the Ohio cases are scheduled to be heard
first in Sept. 2019 while the rest of the cases are on hold. Shevitz said
the first cases will be a bellwether to gauge how the others may fare.