City joins nationwide settlement of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors

December 10, 2021

Today, the City Council approved joining a nationwide settlement of lawsuits filed against manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The City will now receive a portion of the State of Minnesota’s share of the $26 billion settlement provided it does not take new legal action against the defendants.

The national settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three opioid painkiller distributors is an agreement reached with a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general. Minnesota joined the settlement earlier this year and will distribute its share to local jurisdictions that have also joined the settlement. The City will now be among the local governments getting allocations of Minnesota’s settlement money.

Terms of the settlement have states getting larger shares of the $26 billion when more of their local jurisdictions agree to the deal, so City’s participation will lead to Minnesota receiving more settlement dollars. The amount State will receive and the City’s share of that have yet to be determined. Estimates have the City’s share at approximately $10 million, which would be dispersed over the 18-year period of the agreement.

“Opioid manufacturers and distributors have perpetrated one of the most egregious assaults on public health in our time,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “Holding these corporations financially accountable is one essential step in repairing the harm they’ve inflicted. As a local government, we’ve prioritized compassionate and culturally relevant approaches to support those experiencing addiction and their loved ones, and I fully anticipate the funds secured through this settlement will help us continue building on that work.”

The City filed suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors in 2018 through its counsel with Briol & Benson, PLLC. That lawsuit alleges the defendants were involved in deceptive marketing, prescribing, distribution and sale of opioids in the city, adding that no one should be able to profit from the addiction that they have caused.

“The settlements accepted today will not undo the damage caused by the actions of the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, and of course no dollar amount can bring back the lives lost,” said City Attorney Jim Rowader. “We’re excited to accept the funds. We also support the State Subdivision Agreement, which works to increase the amount of money received by entities in Minnesota and ensures that most of the settlement money goes to local governments that actually provide services to victims of the opioid crisis.”

Sold as prescription pain killers under brand names like OxyContin and Percocet, opioids are highly addictive. Regular use can lead to dependence and misuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an estimated 75,673 opioid overdose deaths during 12-month period ending in April 2021 – a 35% increase from the previous 12-month period. In Minneapolis, there have been a total of 712 opioid-related overdose deaths from 2011 through 2020. 

“An important part of the settlements and the State Subdivision Agreement is the requirement that all funds received must be used for abatement services,” Rowader added. “In Minneapolis, that work will be done primarily by the Minneapolis Department of Health, as well as by first responders encountering people in crisis.”

Minneapolis’s share of the settlement will help mitigate future costs in public health, human services and public safety related to opioid use.

“A predictable direct allocation to Minneapolis will help us work with affected communities to prevent deaths and improve the lives of those impacted by the opioid overdose epidemic,” said Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant.