Drug manufacturers and distributors oppose creating a new structure for the U.S. lawsuits regarding babies born to opioid addicts. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Opioid case has new complication: Babies born in withdrawal

The long-running federal court case seeking to hold drugmakers responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis has a new complication: How does it deal with claims covering the thousands of babies born to addicts?

Attorneys representing the children and their guardians want their claims separated from the federal case in Cleveland that involves hundreds of local governments and other entities such as hospitals. They will argue that Thursday before a federal judicial panel in New York.

Babies, unlike governments or businesses, have been directly harmed by the actions of drugmakers and are entitled to their own payments, said Scott Bickford, a lead lawyer for the children and their guardians.

He said initial hospital stays for babies born to an opioid-addicted mother can cost $200,000 to $250,000 more than other infants born without complications.

“Then you have to address their developmental and learning problems,” Bickford said. “A lot of them have organ problems. A lot of them have problems we don’t even know about.”

Drug manufacturers and distributors oppose creating a new structure for the lawsuits over the children.

Separating the cases would “open the door to the inconsistency and inefficiency that co-ordinated proceedings are designed to avoid,” the manufacturers said in a legal filing.

Other plaintiffs in the omnibus opioid litigation have not objected formally, but some are cool to the idea of separating the cases involving the children. One of the lead lawyers for the local governments, Paul Farrell Jr., said he is trying to get help for children born with opioid dependency and have prenatal care funded by the drug industry.

He said all the plaintiffs share a goal: holding drug manufacturers liable for the crisis. Unless that happens, he said, no one will get the payouts they’re seeking.

“You’ve only got to shoot the pig once,” he said.

The dispute offers a window into the complicated nature of the litigation in Cleveland, which is the main avenue to a potential nationwide settlement over the opioid crisis.

Opioids — including prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic substances including fentanyl — killed nearly 48,000 Americans last year, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cost of treatment, providing an overdose antidote, foster care, jail stays, ambulance runs and addressing a growing homeless crisis have added up for governments and taxpayers. Studies have found that opioid addiction also has depleted the workforce, harming the economy.

More than 1,400 plaintiffs have had their federal cases consolidated under a single judge. They include county and local governments, hospitals, unions, American Indian tribes and individuals. Hundreds of others have sued in state courts.

The federal judge, Cleveland-based Judge Dan Polster, has been pushing the parties to reach a settlement.

The sides have been negotiating regularly behind closed doors. The drug industry argues that it should not be held liable because its products are approved by the federal government and prescribed by doctors and because people who overdose often do so on illicit drugs.

Lawyers representing children and their guardians say there is precedent for their request to go it alone, after Polster granted the tribes a separate legal track for their claims. In August, the judge denied similar status for the cases brought on behalf of babies.

That decision prompted the lawyers to ask the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to put their cases under another judge in West Virginia or Illinois. The federal panel in New York will decide whether to grant that request.

By The Associated Press

Just Posted

Red Deer woman lives 102 years with humour, ‘gentle strength’ — and porridge

Minnie Deibert was surrounded by family and friends at her birthday party Sunday

Boy escapes serious injury after falling from third-storey window

SURREY, B.C. — A little boy is very lucky to have escaped… Continue reading

Harmonic singing for young women will be taught at a fall workshop in Red Deer

The Hearts of Harmony Chorus is presenting the Nov. 16 session

‘Crying out for help:’ Calgary radicalization program evolves to help others

CALGARY — The soft-spoken young man wasn’t being recruited by neo-Nazis or… Continue reading

Victoria pledges to plant 5,000 trees as part of United Nations challenge

Victoria is promising to plant 5,000 trees on public and private land… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday Bower Place Community Association Seniors Card and Coffee party at 1:30… Continue reading

Liberals pitch middle-class savings as second full week of campaign beckons

OTTAWA — The Liberals tried to turn the page on Justin Trudeau’s… Continue reading

Democrats blast latest Trump crisis. But what will they do?

WASHINGTON — A whistleblower’s complaint over President Donald Trump’s interactions with a… Continue reading

Face transplant recipient’s donor face now failing

MANCHESTER, N.H. — A woman who was severely burned in a domestic… Continue reading

Charity boat with 182 migrants waits to dock in Europe

A non-profit-run ship carrying 182 migrants rescued on the Mediterranean Sea sailed… Continue reading

Singh-Trudeau meeting will be private, say Liberals, but no time set yet

OTTAWA — The Liberal Party pledged Saturday to keep private the details… Continue reading

Glen Assoun calls for reform in how Ottawa considers cases of wrongful conviction

HALIFAX — Tethered to an ankle monitor and alone in a British… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Saturday nights $9 million Lotto 649 jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $9 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read