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County Executive McCoy Pleased with Certification of Negotiation Class in Opioid Suit

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 8:00 PM

Albany County to Serve as Representative for Nationwide “Negotiating Class” of Jurisdictions Impacted by Opioid Crisis

Judge Dan Polster today certified the MDL negotiation class, which will negotiate, review and approve any proposed settlements from opioid defendants. This certification means that: (a) there will be a set of designated class representatives of which Albany County is one, who are charged with overseeing and making recommendations with regard to settlement and (b) cities and counties will join any approved settlement unless they affirmatively opt out.

Albany County Executive and President of County Executives of America Daniel P. McCoy announced in June that Albany County, along with more than a dozen other cities and counties across the nation, had agreed to serve as class representatives for a proposed nationwide “Negotiating Class.” These cities, counties, towns, parishes, villages and boroughs throughout the country have all been affected by the opioid crisis.

The Negotiating Class was proposed in a memorandum filed with Judge Polster of the Northern District of Ohio, who oversees the National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL (a consolidated multidistrict litigation) of 2,000 jurisdictions who have already filed lawsuits (including Albany County’s suits) against members of the opioid industry, including manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies. Now that this Class exists, a defendant that wishes to negotiate with the Class as a whole can do so through the Negotiating Class process, with the settlement proposal submitted for Class approval or rejection according to the 75% approval requirement.

Notably, a Class and process of this type has never been implemented for counties and municipalities related to negotiation before. Doing so gives both plaintiff and non-plaintiff jurisdictions a stronger voice and larger collective power while helping to expedite the litigation process, by allowing plaintiff jurisdictions and non-litigating jurisdictions to engage in settlement talks with defendants.

“This is a major step in moving the settlement process forward and Albany County will have a key role as a class representative of this unified Negotiating Class,” said County Executive Dan McCoy. “It is our responsibility to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable to Albany County residents and to residents for other counties nationwide through the County Executives of America Opioid Task Force. We were optimistic that Judge Polster would confirm the Class by early September and he has.”

“Now it’s time to keep moving forward with the strong voices of County and Municipal leaders so that we achieve an outcome to this litigation that will have an impact across America,” continued McCoy.

McCoy has also been playing a leading role for counties nationwide as Co-Chair of the CEA Opioid Task Force. In 2017, McCoy convened a 19-member countywide Opioid Task Force to address skyrocketing overdose death. He created the nationally recognized Project Orange, a partnership with local pharmacies to take back unused prescription drugs. With the Capital in such close proximity, McCoy has been able to lobby for important reforms on the state level to address the opioid epidemic as well as secure state grants for things like the expansion of Medication Assisted Treatment. McCoy hosts a NARCAN training each month with free kits to take home and ensured the County Department of Probation staff is trained on using the antidote for emergencies with clients.

Albany County was one of the first counties of New York to join the federal lawsuit against national opioid manufacturers, having filed on Jan. 5, 2018 against several manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, L.P., the maker of OxyContin, followed by a separate suit in Feb. 27, 2019 against nearly a dozen distributors of opioid drugs. The lawsuits allege that the opioid manufacturers and distributors engaged in deceptive practices in violation of consumer protection laws including, among other things, deceptively misrepresenting the risk that patients would become addicted to opioids and overstating the benefits of the drugs. They also allege that the companies conspired to flood Albany County and surrounding communities with opioids without conducting due diligence required by law and failing to report illicit orders, fueling a black market. As a result, the County has suffered increasing rates of addiction and deaths linked to opioids.

Both Albany County suits are filed in the multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Ohio before Judge Polster.

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Albany County ExecutiveDaniel P. McCoy