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New Castle County seeks to join settlement class on national opioid litigation

Delaware Public Media

New Castle County hopes to be included in a possible nationwide settlement of lawsuits connected to the opioid crisis.

Attorneys involved in multi-district litigation against opioid makers, distributors and sellers filed earlier this summer to allow every municipality and county across the country to receive part of a settlement — by creating a “negotiating class.” 

If the strategy is certified by the federal judge presiding over the case in the Northern District of Ohio, New Castle County could be among the governments receiving a potential payout.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer supports the negotiating class idea as part of the County Executives of America’s Opioid Task Force.  He says virtually every government across the country has faced increased costs resulting from the opioid epidemic. 

“Opioids [have a] sort of spinoff effect … beyond just personal health into job issues, into crime issues, prison issues — so it’s taxed all these other government systems and public systems,” he said. “As a result, pretty much every government in the country has some right, or has some additional expense, that we believe those who caused the harm are responsible for.”

New Castle County officials have yet to tally the total cost of the opioid epidemic to taxpayers, but Meyer estimates it comes to millions of dollars.

According to a Washington Post analysis of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System, or ARCOS, more than 148 million prescription pain pills, or 39 pills per resident per year, were supplied to New Castle County between 2006 and 2012.

Meyer says participating in a potential negotiating class to federal litigation would be cheaper for the county than suing directly. “We haven’t sued because in effect, Cuyahoga County and Summit County in Ohio have sued, and through this negotiating class concept there’s a good chance we’re going to be able to be involved in it without ever actually having to go through the expense of litigating,” he said. 


The first trial in the multi-district litigation in the Northern District of Ohio is set for October.  


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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