NEW YORK, Nov. 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- On Thursday, November 29, 2018, attorneys with the Opioid Justice Team presented oral arguments in front of seven judges of the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) as to why hundreds of thousands of infants born dependent on opioids should be allowed their own representation in a separate proceeding from the nationwide opioid litigation currently proceeding against several large pharmaceutical companies.
The Opioid Justice Team appeared before the JPML today because all opioid-related cases are currently consolidated before a single federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, including states, cities, insurance companies, individuals, and infants born dependent on opioids. Attorneys with the Opioid Justice Team represent infants born dependent on opioids and today argued to consolidate these cases in their own separate litigation against the pharmaceutical companies. The attorneys argued that the infants of the opioid crisis are not similarly situated to governmental entities and other victims. The babies and children will need decades of care, whereas the other plaintiffs have different and far less complicated legal remedies. If the Opioid Justice Team's request is granted, the baby and infant cases would be consolidated in a new MDL: Infants Born Opioid-Dependent Products Liability Litigation.
According to the Opioid Justice Team, the JPML seemed both surprised and concerned that representatives for infants born dependent on opioids had not been able to participate in discovery or any settlement discussions.
"We were glad to see the panel take such a sincere interest in our request for a separate MDL, and we are optimistic after today's hearing," said Scott Bickford of Martzell, Bickford & Centola, the Opioid Justice Team attorney who presented the oral arguments. "The panel encouraged settlement of the claims and was generally concerned about the resolution of the babies' cases. The panel was especially concerned with the fact that the babies were being left out of any meaningful settlement discussions with the defendants."
"During the hearing, the defendants mistakenly stated to the panel that no settlement discussions were being had because the Opioid Justice Team had not made any settlement overtures. It is our understanding that the defendants will be submitting a written correction to the panel that admits such overtures have been made but the defendants are not inclined to consider settlement outside of the MDL process," Bickford said. "What this confirms is that unless the infants born dependent on opioids are given their own MDL, they will be completely left out of the settlement negotiations. These babies and children have been warehoused in the Cleveland case for too long, and it is time they get their own representation."
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is a group of medical conditions faced by infants born dependent on opioids from their exposure in the womb due to their mothers' usage. As of 2010, nearly one-third of pregnant women in the United States were prescribed opioids, and between 2000 and 2009, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported a five-fold increase of infants born with NAS. It is estimated that tens of thousands of NAS babies are born every year, and data from multiple states that track NAS births show that number has been growing.
There is no time set for the JPML to issue a ruling on this matter.
About the Opioid Justice Team
The Opioid Justice Team is a nationwide group of attorneys working with doctors and national and local nongovernmental organizations fighting to end our nation's opioid epidemic.
Attorneys: Scott Bickford (504) 581-9065 or Celeste Brustowicz (504) 399-0009
Media: Peter Mirijanian (202) 464-8803 or C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110
SOURCE Opioid Justice Team