Negotiations over legal fees stalled for months. Countless lawyers have done different amounts of work and argued about who should get paid how much. Now about $ 1.6 billion in fees and costs would be paid to private attorneys who represent thousands of counties and communities, $ 50 million in costs, and about $ 350 million to private attorneys working for states. (Many states are represented by their own salaried prosecutors.)
Another crucial lever to advance the settlement conditions was the risky gamble of a lawsuit. The distributors have been tried in federal court in West Virginia and in a court in New York state. The West Virginia case is ongoing, but on Tuesday, New York attorney general Letitia James announced a $ 1.179 billion deal with the distributors that will get her out of the case. That money would be deducted from the total $ 26 billion severance pay. Payments to New York could start in two months, Ms. James said.
An ongoing tension in the talks was the distribution of funds between states and small governments, including cities and counties.
The new regulation provides a national formula for disbursing funds to states and flexibility within each state to broker a deal with the places so that the bulk of the funds are aimed at alleviating the opioid epidemic and preventing its recurrence .
For months, states and counties elbowed each other while fighting with defendants. The distribution to each state is now based on extensive federal data and includes metrics such as a state’s population, deaths from overdose, opioid pill sales, and disorders related to pain medication abuse.
Most states will most likely work out their own payout plans. Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and others have taught in-house, state-specific formulas. Last month, New York lawmakers passed legislation that would ensure that any money from the opioid litigation settlement goes into a “locked box” used only to deal with the crisis.
Johnson & Johnson is widely known as a company ready to investigate rather than settle cases, but it has faced a flurry of negative publicity lately: litigation over asbestos deaths related to talcum powder, a recall of some sunscreens, and reports about rare neurological adverse events related to his Covid single-dose vaccine. The company is still on trial in California but reached a settlement with New York state and two New York counties on the eve of the trial last month.