Advance Notice: Briefs

Nessel backs Ohio in suit against opioid manufacturer

By: - September 9, 2019 3:03 pm

Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in downtown Stamford, April 2, 2019 in Stamford, Connecticut. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its owners, the Sackler family, are facing hundreds of lawsuits across the country for the company’s alleged role in the opioid epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans over the past 20 years.| Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined with 13 other attorneys general and filed a motion and an amicus brief on Friday in support of Ohio’s efforts to prevent trials against a private pharmaceutical company. 

The company, Purdue Pharma, a leading producer of Oxycontin, is a defendant in more than 2,000 lawsuits by state and local governments for its responsibility in the national opioid crisis. 

Dana Nessel
Attorney General Dana Nessel at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Nessel is joined by attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Two northern Ohio counties, Summit and Cuyahoga, are suing the company for unlawful distribution of opioids. Nessel proposed holding off on the trial out of concern that it may take litigation to obtain relief for the entire state of Ohio.

“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 in a statement Friday. “This requires working with stakeholders 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.”

Nessel says that allowing the state to control authority of the prosecution of the pharmaceutical company will financially benefit the state as a whole. 

A release from Nessel’s office stated, “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.”

In August, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the Michigan Opioids Task Force, upon which Nessel serves as a key member. As the Advance previously reported, the task force has goals set to raise public awareness, identify the leading cause of the epidemic and help Michiganders access services to overcome addiction.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.