City councils in West Lafayette and Lafayette voted on Monday to move forward with lawsuits against opioid distributors and manufacturers separately from Indiana’s opioid litigation.
A new state statute requires local governments pursuing damages to “opt out” of any state settlement funds in order for local cases to move forward.
West Lafayette and Lafayette are among an estimated 50 local governments in the state pursuing lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids for damages caused by the opioid crisis.
Richard Shevitz is an attorney representing West Lafayette and Marion County in their lawsuits over the opioid crisis. He said under the state’s umbrella, 15 percent of any settlement would be divided among local governments, 15 percent would go to the state, and the remaining 70 percent would be distributed by Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration.
“It’s like any pot of money. Everybody would like to get their hands on it,” he said. “The state would like to see it go through the state process so they can control it at that level.”
Local governments have until June 30 to opt out of the statewide suits, but will have 60 days from the date of their withdrawal to opt back in.
Shevitz said it’s not clear how much money will go to local governments either through individual lawsuits or the state settlement. But he said local governments have been impacted by the crisis differently - so it makes sense that they should want control over how those funds are used.
“None of us have a crystal ball so I don’t want to predict the future but I think the calculus that they are making is that however much lies ahead, getting more than 15 percent of it is probably the right thing to do,” he said.
Shevitz called the state statute to take control of local settlements “highly unusual.”