Zionsville opts out of opioid multidistrict litigation, to pursue damages directly


The Zionsville Town Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that allowed the town to opt out of a state-level opioid settlement case, allowing the town to directly pursue damages caused by opioid manufacturers.

Zionsville and numerous other municipalities and counties and the state of Indiana have sued opioid manufacturers in recent years, seeking damages caused by the manufacture, sale and distribution of the drugs through multidistrict litigation.

Jonathan Knoll, a partner at Cohen & Malad LLP, said the town had the option to opt out of the multidistrict litigation by June 30 to pursue damages directly. The town council unanimously passed a resolution June 21 to do so, but the town can still opt back in within 60 days of having passed the resolution, Knoll said.

“All cities and towns filed suit against the manufacturers,” Heather Willey, the town council’s legal counsel, told council members at a June 21 meeting. “They were consolidated at the federal court level because of all the cases being similar in nature, so we do have a lawsuit in our individual name, and I think that is part of the opt out. The procedure is that we would be able to get damages in our individual, own name.”

The multidistrict litigation is pending and will not go to trial, Knoll said.

The town council and the mayor’s administration believe legislation recently passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb would greatly diminish the town’s ability to be compensated by responsible parties in the multidistrict suit. They say it is unclear how much revenue would be funneled back to the municipalities. They also say opting out of it allows the town to sue additional parties outside of opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma and opioid distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

Willey and Knoll said numerous other municipalities have opted out of the multidistrict litigation, and more were expected to do the same by the June 30 deadline.

“The bottom line is, if the town does not opt out, there is the possibility that the town may not participate in future settlements because the town has sued other manufacturers, pharmacy defendants that the state has not sued,” Knoll said during the meeting. “If it stays in the statute, the state retains 85 percent control of how the opioid funds are allocated and distributed throughout the state versus if the town opts out, it’s claims go forward in the court system, and it retains some control of how future settlements may be allocated and used.”