Hoosier Cities Opting Out of Opioid Settlement

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana is part of a 26-billion-dollar national settlement with four opioid makers and distributors. But Indiana cities and counties aren’t going along.

Eight state attorneys general announced the settlement Wednesday with Johnson and Johnson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita says Indiana will join the deal, collecting a half-billion dollars.

But dozens of cities, including Indy, Fishers, and Noblesville, filed their own lawsuits long before the state did, and have already opted out of the settlement to pursue their own claims separately. Nearly half Indiana’s share of the deal is linked to local governments ending their cases.

Attorney Irwin Levin, who represents Indianapolis and several other cities, says legislators didn’t consult local governments before passing a law anticipating an opioid settlement. That law would steer most of the money to the state, leaving cities and counties to split just 76-million dollars.

And the city and county suits target more than just the four companies in the settlement announced Wednesday. Levin says under the law, a future state settlement with other companies would terminate those cases too.

Levin says lawyers have been talking with Rokita to try to reach an agreement that would let them sign on. The law allows cities to opt back into the settlement by the end of August. But fixing their objections would require legislators to change the law, and they’re not in session.

The settlement gives state and local governments until December to decide who’s in and who’s out, and legislators could add the issue to their agenda when they return this fall to deal with redistricting.

The lawsuits accuse companies of downplaying or ignoring the addictiveness of opioids. The deal’s terms allow the companies to back out if not enough cities or states sign on.