Top Law Firms In Opioid Lawsuits To Get Hundreds Of Millions In Fees

A court-appointed panel has recommended how to allocate a pool of $2.13 billion in legal fees from nationwide drug industry settlements over the U.S. opioid crisis, with top firms set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars.

The panel awarded national firm Motley Rice the largest share, at 18.6% of the funds, or $396 million. Other firms with significant shares include New York-based Simmons Hanly Conroy, receiving 11.4%, or $244 million; California-based Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, receiving 8.2%, or $174 million; and California-based Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, receiving 5.65%, or $120 million.

The $2.13 billion fee pool originates from settlements totaling more than $46 billion that drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies reached to resolve lawsuits by local and Native American tribal governments.

These lawsuits accused the companies of fueling an epidemic of opioid addiction. The funds were set aside as a common benefit fund to compensate law firms for work that benefited all plaintiffs in the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who has overseen the sprawling opioid litigation since 2017, ruled on Friday that firms have until June 21 to appeal the panel’s recommendations before they become final.

These fees stem from settlements with drugmakers Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; distributors Cencora, McKesson, and Cardinal Health; and pharmacies CVS, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart.

Justice Clarence Thomas has faced criticism for failing to disclose gifts from a businessman.

These allocations do not include a settlement of up to $6 billion with bankrupt OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which the Sackler family owners funded in exchange for protection from future lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing the legality of that settlement.

Opioid settlements, including both the nationwide deals and separate agreements negotiated by individual states, now total well over $50 billion. However, many state and local governments have yet to develop detailed plans for how they will use the money to address the harms caused by opioids.

From 1999 through 2023, more than 800,000 people died of opioid overdoses, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits claim that drugmakers downplayed the drugs’ risks and that distributors and pharmacies ignored red flags indicating the drugs were being diverted into illegal channels.