The opioid crisis has swept millions of Americans into its destructive wake. But now, there is hope for those reeling from its devastating impacts. As explained below, individuals are now able to seek recovery from one of the pharmaceutical companies that had a hand in the opioid crisis.
The number of people affected by the crisis cannot be understated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 232,000 Americans died of prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2018. As drug makers exaggerated the safety of prescription painkillers and more and more people became addicted, those opioid addicts graduated to illegal drugs like heroin—and countless numbers of Americans died from this post-opioid illegal drug use. Although rates of abuse have recently fallen, even the lower numbers are staggering. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018 alone.
Until now, much of the attention on financial recovery for painkiller addiction has focused on state and local governments suing drug companies, with individuals receiving no benefit. But now, individuals will be able to file claims in a federal bankruptcy court against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, which has been at the center of the opioid disaster. Judge Robert D. Drain in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, set a June 30, 2020 deadline for individuals to file their claims.
“This could provide some much-needed relief for people whose lives have been wrecked by the opioid crisis,” said Will Ourand, an attorney with Newsome Melton who is handling claims brought by individuals. “These claims are important. They can help individuals recoup money they can use for treatment and to help recover money they lost. In some cases the breadwinner in the family overdosed and died. The families need help.”
Facing a tidal wave of thousands of lawsuits, Purdue Pharma, filed for bankruptcy in September2019 under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Purdue Pharma and its owner, the Sackler family, reportedly set aside $10 billion or more and put the company into a public trust to pay individual victims’ claims. Purdue Pharma recently launched a $23.8 million advertising campaign to publicize the opportunity to file individual claims.
The claims process is set up for problems stemming from OxyContin as well as Butrans, DHC Plus, Dilaudid, Hysingla ER, MS Contin, MSIR, OxyFast, OxyIR, Palladone and Ryzolt.
The bankruptcy claims process has its pros and cons. A trustee will evaluate claims and set compensation amounts, depending on the type of injury. Victims will not get their day in court as they would during a lawsuit. But unlike lawsuits, which can take years, the bankruptcy court provides a streamlined path to recovery and is less intrusive.
In some ways though, Ourand said, the claims process is more complicated than a normal lawsuit. “It requires legal skills and talent to navigate. It’s really important to make sure you are going with a law firm that’s done this before.”
Ourand likened the process to the Takata air bag liability cases Newsome Melton took a lead role in. Takata also filed for bankruptcy to deal with the financial impact of a global recall of faulty airbags. Other defendants who have faced liability on a massive scale have opted for working through claims in bankruptcy court, such as the utility PG&E Corp. after California wildfires. “This is the wave of the future when defendants have mass tort exposure,” Ourand said.
If you have questions about this topic or need assistance filing an opioid claim, Newsome Melton can help. Contact us at 1-888-380-2809.