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.

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.”

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.