ATRA: ‘Follow the Trial Lawyers’’ Influence in Opioid Litigation

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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 19, 2017 – Acknowledging the “growing scope, seriousness and complexity of our nation’s problems with the abuse of federally approved pain medication,” the American Tort Reform Association […]


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 19, 2017 – Acknowledging the “growing scope, seriousness and complexity of our nation’s problems with the abuse of federally approved pain medication,” the American Tort Reform Association today nonetheless urged the media and others to “follow the trial lawyers’ influence in developing litigation that, though ostensibly led by state attorneys general, has a clear link to private-sector personal injury lawyers.”

ATRA president Tiger Joyce conceded that, “The hiring of outside counsel by state attorneys general may be appropriate in some instances.  But there have been many well-documented abuses of these arrangements,” including those reported for more than a decade by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times series that showed how private-sector personal injury lawyers often shop their ideas for potentially lucrative lawsuits against corporate defendants to friendly state AGs they have supported politically.

“So it is most important that litigation initiated by state or local governments truly serves the public interest, and does not ultimately serve the self-interest of the plaintiffs’ bar,” Joyce continued.  “Drawing a bright line between these obviously conflicting interests has been an ATRA policy priority for more than a decade, animating our drive to enact commonsense statutes – in 18 states thus far – that promote accountability and transparency when public authorities feel compelled to hire outside counsel to run major lawsuits.

“In fact, ATRA was part of the successful 2015 effort to enact such a statute in Ohio,” where Attorney General Mike DeWine has reportedly hired outside counsel as ‘consultants.’

“While AG DeWine appears to be complying with that 2015 law,” Joyce observed, “ATRA will closely monitor compliance, and we urge media watchdogs to do the same.  The role of these lawyers will continue to be a focus for ATRA as recent accounts in the media suggest that this litigation can be expected to target additional defendants.

“After all, public health and safety must be the ultimate goals.   Elected legislators and executives, and the expert regulators they appoint, must not leave such important policymaking to trial lawyers, especially when there are such obvious conflicts between public and private interests.

“We must avoid ‘regulation through litigation,’ which has long been recognized as a corrosive end-run around the separation of powers,” Joyce concluded.

-ATRA-

 

The American Tort Reform Association, based in Washington, D.C., is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform through public education and the enactment of legislation.  Its members include nonprofit organizations and small and large companies, as well as trade, business and professional associations from the state and national level.  The American Tort Reform Foundation is a sister organization dedicated primarily to research and public education.

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