In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation

976 F.3d 664 (2020)

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In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
976 F.3d 664 (2020)

Facts

Over 1,300 public entities nationwide (collectively, the public entities) (plaintiffs) filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, opioid distributors, and opioid-selling pharmacies and retailers (collectively, the opioid-industry entities) (defendants), alleging that the opioid-industry entities had misled medical professionals and the public into prescribing and taking opiates. The public entities asserted that the opioid-industry entities’ deception had led to hundreds of thousands of Americans dying from opioid overdoses and had forced the public entities to divert public funds to create emergency public-health-and-safety campaigns regarding the opioid crisis. The public entities asserted causes of action, including federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations, public-nuisance claims, and other state common-law claims. The public entities’ actions were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in federal district court in Ohio. In June 2019, lawyers for some of the public entities asked the court presiding over the MDL to certify a proposed “negotiation class” of over 34,000 cities and counties to negotiate settlements of class members’ claims with the opioid-industry entities. The proposed negotiation class was a novel concept suggested by two law professors, one of whom was a special master assisting with the MDL. If the class were certified, class members would be given 60 days after certification to opt out of the class. Several opioid-industry entities and some public entities objected to the class-certification motion, but the court granted the motion and certified a class for negotiation of class members’ RICO and Controlled Substances Act claims and other claims arising out of the same common facts. The objectors appealed. After concluding that the class-certification order was appealable and that the objectors had standing to appeal, the appellate court considered whether the district court had properly certified the negotiation class.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clay, J.)

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