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

June 14, 2019

Albany County Executive and President of County Executives of America Daniel P. McCoy today announced that Albany County, along with more than a dozen other cities and counties across the nation, have 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 national Class will negotiate, review and approve any proposed settlements from opioid defendants. Serving as a Class Representative, Albany will have the opportunity to join in negotiations and provide input on proposed settlements prior to voting by the Class.

The Negotiating Class was proposed in a memorandum filed today with Judge Polster of the Northern District of Ohio, who oversees the National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL (a consolidated multidistrict litigation) of more than 1,800 jurisdictions who have already filed lawsuits (including Albany County’s suits) against members of the opioid industry, including manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies. Judge Polster will have to approve the class, after which a formal notice will go out to all potential class members nationwide, filed or unfiled. That will begin a 60-day period in which each class member can decide to participate, opt out or to object to some feature of the proposed class. After the 60-day notice period, a final hearing will be held. Once the 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 would give 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.

“Albany County is honored to serve as a class representative of this proposed unified Negotiating Class,” said County Executive Dan McCoy. “From the beginning of our investigation and filing against opioid manufacturers and, later, distributors, we had a duty to represent not only the residents of Albany County against the opioid industry but also counties nationwide through the County Executives of America Opioid Task Force. We are optimistic that Judge Polster will grant preliminary approval of the Class soon and that by early September the Class will be confirmed.”

“It is critical that County and Municipal leaders have a strong voice in the outcome of this litigation that impacts every corner of America. We are thankful that the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee has proposed such a novel approach that addresses the complexity of this litigation and the needs of the litigating and non-litigating counties and municipalities while offering a potential litigation end to any defendant who wishes to resolve their portion of the litigation through settlement. We look forward to growing our involvement in the Negotiating Class as a Class Representative and helping to lead the way toward a nationwide resolution for counties and other jurisdictions with opioid defendants,” he continued.

“I continue to commend County Executive McCoy on his leadership in the opioid epidemic not only in Albany County, but through his work and engagement with national leadership organizations,” said Joe Rice, Motley Rice LLC, outside counsel for Albany County, co-lead counsel of the MDL and head of the MDL negotiating committee. “He and the other class representatives have taken another large step toward a resolution to this complex litigation. When we have strong leadership and collaboration, we can overcome some of the biggest obstacles in front of us. Right now for our nation’s counties and municipalities, that is the opioid epidemic. I hope others will follow the example of County Executive McCoy and do what they can to help achieve sustainable resolutions. Being a Class member, actively reviewing proposed settlements and voting is essential in having a strong voice and proving input on what needs to be accomplished.”

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