Make no mistake: The legal fight over liability for the U.S. opioid crisis is only heating up.
An 11th-hour settlement Monday morning averted what would have been the first trial in a landmark federal case, one involving thousands of plaintiffs at nearly every level of government and defendants from every link in the chain of opioid drug production. But all the other lawsuits in the broader case remain on track for courtroom confrontations.
And with the costs of the crisis estimated at tens of billions of dollars and with more than 200,000 overdose deaths since the late 1990s, the stakes are immense — even for people who have never heard of this case. What happens with it will largely determine how much money cities and counties nationwide will have to fight the devastating effects of opioid abuse and when they’ll get it.
But the litigation is also intensely complicated. So let’s begin with the basics.