The Role of Direct-Injury Government-Entity Lawsuits in the Opioid Litigation

By Edgar Aliferov

The opioid epidemic has ravaged the United States, killing over 100
Americans every day and costing the nation upward of $90 billion a year.
All branches and levels of the government have pursued measures to combat
the epidemic and reduce its societal costs. Perhaps the most interesting
response is the emergence of direct-injury government-entity lawsuits, which
seek to recover damages from opioid companies that facilitated prescription
pill addictions. Cities, counties, and states across the country are suing
opioid manufacturers and distributors in unprecedented numbers.

This Note explores the role of direct-injury government-entity claims as
compared to other forms of civil litigation employed in the opioid crisis. It
highlights the obstacles faced by parens patriae actions, individual lawsuits,
class actions, and aggregate actions in general. This Note argues that direct-injury
government claims have important advantages over other forms of
civil litigation because they overcome certain defenses related to victim
blameworthiness and because they function as inherently representative
actions that bypass the certification requirements of traditional aggregate
actions.