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Evers signs bill authorizing Wisconsin participation in opioid MDL settlement

Evers signs bill authorizing Wisconsin participation in opioid MDL settlement

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Gov. Tony Evers has signed a bill that authorizes Wisconsin’s participation in a settlement in a prescription opioid multidistrict litigation case.

Assembly Bill 374, signed into law on Wednesday, requires the Wisconsin attorney general to cooperate with local governments that are parties to National Prescription Opiate Litigation, Case No. MDL 2804 and any proceeding filed in state circuit court that contains allegations and seeks relief substantially similar to the allegations contained and relief sought in the federal lawsuit.

In 2017, more than 2,000 government-entity lawsuits were consolidated into the MDL, according to the Columbia Business Law Review. The plaintiffs allege that the opioid manufacturers misrepresented the risks of long-term use and failed to properly monitor suspicious orders of the prescription drugs.

The act signed on Wednesday directs the attorney general to enter into a joint settlement agreement of the legal or equitable claims of the state and local governments, as long as the proposed settlement agreement is approved by the Joint Committee on Finance and contains certain provisions regarding the distribution of the settlement.

The act specifies how money from the settlement agreement may be used and prohibits any political subdivision of the state, or an officer or agent of a political subdivision of the state, that was not a party to the opiate litigation as of June 1, 2021, from:

  • Maintaining a claim to the proceeds of the settlement agreement.
  • Maintaining or bringing a claim related to opioids against any defendant in the opiate litigation that would be released if the political subdivision, officer, or agent were a party to the joint settlement agreement.

In his signing statement, Evers took issue with the bill “unconstitutionally” giving the legislature the authority to approve any settlement the executive branch reaches with opioid manufacturers and distributers. However, Evers said he wasn’t willing to risk the state’s ability to maximize the amount of settlement dollars available to Wisconsin by vetoing the bill.

Opioid overdoses more than doubled in 2020 compared to previous years, according to an Associated Press report. There were 325 suspected overdoses from March through mid-July of 2020, compared to 150 during that same time span in 2019.


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