Can litigation solve a public health epidemic? The opioid epidemic has cost California 24,885 lives, $4.3 billion, and counting. As a result, over 500 California cities, counties, and sovereign Indian tribes are engaged in civil litigation against over twenty different opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies for their role in creating and profiting from an epidemic of addiction. Cases brought by California plaintiffs account for about 20 percent of all ongoing opioid litigation nationally. This Note situates the claims of three California plaintiffs— the State, the County of Mariposa, and the City of Los Angeles—within the context of the ongoing national opioid litigation, compares them to previous successful Big Tobacco litigation, and discusses what plaintiffs should do to retain both their ability to control claims and any potential settlement or judgment funds.
Samantha T. Pannier, Litigating an Epidemic: California Plaintiffs In the National Opioid Litigation, 54 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 275 (2020).