Big news in the ever growing legal battle surrounding opioid manufacturers. Smith & Johnson is part of a team of attorneys representing a total of 64 cities and counties in Michigan in the fight to recover taxpayer dollars that have been used to combat the epidemic, and U.S. District Judge Dan Polsteras who oversees roughly 2,000 opioid lawsuits by states, counties and cities, said the plaintiffs can try to prove that drugmakers’ deceptive marketing of the painkillers caused a harmful, massive increase in supply that pharmacies and distributors did not do enough to stop the distribution. Via judge orders big drug companies to face opioid trial in Reuters:

“A factfinder could reasonably infer that these failures were a substantial factor in producing the alleged harm suffered by plaintiffs,” the Cleveland-based judge wrote.

The ruling was among seven decisions and orders totaling 80 pages from Polster ahead of a scheduled Oct. 21 trial by two Ohio counties against Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of fueling the epidemic, and several other defendants.

Polster also refused to dismiss civil conspiracy claims against drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors, and said federal law did not preempt much of the plaintiffs’ case.

Other defendants included the drugmakers Endo International Plc and Johnson & Johnson; pharmacy operators CVS Health Corp., Rite Aid Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc.; and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp.

Polster also refused to dismiss a variety of claims against generic drugmakers Allergan Plc, Mallinckrodt Plc and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Click for our municipal opioid lawsuit page.

Earlier this week, Purdue Pharma settled out for $270M in the state case brought by the State of Oklahoma. Mara Thompson with TV 7&4 has been following the progress of our Federal Opioid Litigation team since our first press conference on December 19th, 2017 at the Macomb County Medical Examiners office when we announced the filing of our first nine cases, which included Grand Traverse County.

Since that first round of filings in December 2019, the number of municipalities who have retained our team has increased from 9 cities and counties to 64 cities and counties here in Michigan. Our legal team has filed a Federal lawsuit on behalf of each municipal client against the same defendants named in the Oklahoma case, and others, in an attempt to recover taxpayer monies spent fighting the opioid epidemic created by these companies.

Mara reached out to Smith & Johnson attorney Tim Smith with questions regarding the Oklahoma state court settlement and how it might affect the Federal cases filed here in Michigan. The article from Up North Live is here.

The Oklahoma case, which is a state court case, will continue to trial on May 28, 2019 against the remaining manufacturers and distributors in that lawsuit. Our federal lawsuits filed here in Michigan are part of a National MDL currently based in Federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. The first of those federal cases will begin trial on October 21, 2019.

The Alpena News reports Smith & Johnson attorney Tim Smith and lawyers from the firm will meet with Montmorency County departments regarding the opioid litigation:

(County Board Chair Daryl) Peterson received a letter from Smith that stated in the next couple of weeks, lawyers from Smith’s office will be going to five departments to collect information that could be used with the opioid litigation.

Peterson said if the board gets anything from Smith before the lawyers arrive, Secretary Linda Uchwal will pass it on to the five departments.

“Basically, they’re going to start asking for information and ask for costs involved in the opioid litigation,” Peterson said. “We got a 150 page document from the lawyers the other day indicating all the companies and all the accusations in the litigation.”

Peterson said notice will be given to the departments about when Smith and the lawyers will be meeting with the departments as soon as he knows.

“It sounds like it’s going to be pretty quick,” he said. “I just wanted to let everyone know that this is still an ongoing thing and we’re going to go full steam ahead here and it looks pretty quick.”

Smith & Johnson attorney Tim Smith discussing Leelanau County’s decision to enter the lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. More about Smith & Johnson’s Municipal Opioid Litigation right here.

UpNorthLive reports that nine Michigan municipalities have joined together and filed federal lawsuits against dozens of pharmaceutical companies who they say had a part in the crisis:

“Over 64,000 people died of opioid overdoses last year in America,” Said Dr. Joneign Khaldun, director and health officer for the City of Detroit. “In Michigan, the number’s over 1,600 people last year alone. More people are dying from opioid overdoses then they are from guns and from car crashes, it’s incredible.”

Grand Traverse and Chippewa Counties, along with 7 other Michigan municipalities, just filed lawsuits against several pharmaceutical companies. They join nearly 100 other communities across the country.

..“There are counties in northern Michigan that are harder hit,” said attorney Tim Smith with Smith & Johnson in Traverse City. “Looking at it from a per capita standpoint as far as the number of deaths, as far as the prescription rates.”

The hope of the lawsuit is to recover the costs spent fighting this epidemic, but also force the companies to change their policies to prevent this moving forward.

“We’re sending a very clear message that Michigan is now engaged in this litigation,” said Smith. “Michigan now recognizes at the county level and the city level that the damage these companies have caused is enough. It’s time to hold them accountable and recover those tax payer monies.”

Read on for more from UpNorthLive.

Facts & Ruling by Court:


A minor riding a school bus suffered bodily injuries when the school bus swiped a temporarily stopped city garbage truck that pulled back into the travel lane while the school bus was passing.  The Michigan Court of Appeals held that even if the garbage truck was temporarily stopped, that fact did not shield the city from liability for the minor’s injuries under governmental immunity.  The truck was still in “operation” as contemplated by the law [MCL 691.1405] because temporarily stopping is carrying out the garbage truck’s designed and intended function and purpose.


What this means for accident victims:


This is good because the court followed existing law which holds governmental bodies liable for personal injury caused by the negligent operation of governmentally owned vehicles.


What this means for Medical Service Providers:


This case does not change or affect a medical provider’s independent claim for no-fault insurance to cover the injured person’s incurred charges for medical care.  The child was in the bus which was operating.  The bus could have hit any standing object and no-fault coverage would apply.  The no-fault rules of priority apply [MCL 500.3114]: submit claim to the child’s household family auto coverage; if there is no family auto coverage in the household, then submit claim to the city’s auto coverage.


You can read the Opinion here.

Authored by L. Page Graves