Less than 2% of cities and counties opted out of the negotiating class concerning national opioid litigation involving drug manufacturers and distributors. Gainesville and Hall County were not one of them.
The opt-out deadline was Nov. 22, and Gainesville and Hall County stayed in the negotiating class.
“This is one of the most expensive litigations of all time. It’s also one of the biggest litigations of all time, and I think with anything else, there’s always strength in numbers,” attorney Alex Hughes said.
In the Northern District of Ohio, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster certified a negotiating class Sept. 11 regarding the multi-district opioid litigation between local governments and drug manufacturers/distributors.
The negotiating class started with roughly 34,500 cities and counties before the opt-out deadline.
The law firms of Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley in Athens and Gainesville’s Hasty Pope LLC were hired when the city and county announced their litigation in March 2018.
No settlements have been proposed yet.
“That’s probably because the opt-out deadline just passed, and I would think the defendants wanted to see what kind of support the class was going to get before they potentially try to use it,” Hughes said.
If a settlement is proposed and there is a 75% supermajority in favor, the settlement is accepted.
Hughes did not speculate on why certain groups decided to opt out of the class.
An allocation map was created online to give an idea of what counties and cities might receive under a settlement. The allocation was decided on three factors: the amount of opioids distributed within the county, the number of opioid deaths in the county and number of people suffering from opioid-use disorder.
Based on a hypothetical $1 billion settlement, the total allocation value for Hall County would be $339,984, with the initial distribution being shared between the county and all incorporated municipalities.
“The county and the cities within the county will have the opportunity to reach agreement on how the county-level allocation will be shared amongst them,” according to the multi-district litigation allocation website.
If no agreement is reached, the default intra-county allocation would give $265,572 to Hall County and $63,523 to Gainesville. The remainder would be split among Braselton, Buford, Clermont, Flowery Branch, Gillsville and Oakwood, according to the website.
Hughes said it is possible for these numbers to change.
“Assuming when the settlement gets pushed through the negotiation class, if the 2020 census numbers are out by then, the numbers that you’re seeing on the map can change. But essentially, assuming that a settlement is approved, 75% of that settlement will be allocated across the United States,” she said.