Cities opting out of Indiana’s suits against opioid makers

Several Indiana cities have opted out of the state’s pending lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, reasoning that they will likely see more cash from their own litigation filed in response to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The suburban Indianapolis cities of Fishers and Noblesville recently joined Indianapolis, South Bend, Lafayette and other municipalities in deciding to forgo potential payments from the lawsuits filed by Indiana’s attorney general’s office.

Fort Wayne, Indiana’s second-largest city, gave preliminary approval Tuesday to doing the same, with its city council expected to vote on the matter Tuesday.

Noblesville city attorney Lindsey Bennett said if the city north of Indianapolis had continued as part of the attorney general’s lawsuits it would have to drop its own suits. That would likely result in it receiving less money than through its own suits against opioid makers and distributors, she said.

“We would not be able to recover that money from the several lawsuits we’ve filed on our own. And it is unlikely we would recover as much money in the state’s lawsuit,” Bennett said.

A state law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb this year requires cities and counties that want to pursue their own legal action to “opt out” of the attorney general’s lawsuits by June 30.

About half of Indiana’s cities and counties have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and dispensers, seeking to recover funds they have spent on police, fire, treatment programs and prevention in response to opioid abuse, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Those municipalities sued more opioid-related companies than the state did and they have said they believe they’ll get better settlements on their own. Indianapolis, for example, sued 20 companies.

Cory Voight, director of complex litigation for the attorney general’s office, said Indiana has filed suits against four defendants and may participate in a fifth: Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, and the Sackler family, the company’s owners; Cardinal Health; McKesson; AmerisourceBergen; and Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Under Indiana’s plan, the state will receive 15% of any settlement, localities will split 15% and the Family and Social Services Administration will get 70% to distribute around the state, with local governments deciding how to spend about half of it.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that it was hopeful the dissenting cities would reconsider and rejoin the state’s lawsuits.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to partner with cities, towns and counties by splitting the proceeds evenly between the state and local communities,” the office said in the statement.

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