AUSTIN – The Lone Star State may soon join the dozens of Texas counties that have already filed suit against the makers of opioids, as an open records request revealed the state has indeed received “suggested case theories” from “prospective co-counsels” and “anticipates” litigation.
Around the nation, hundreds of counties and cities are already in pursuit of multimillion-dollar claims against pharmaceutical giants, alleging a slew of drug manufactures, such as Purdue Pharma, Janssen and Johnson & Johnson to name only a few, knew of the dangers of opioids but placed profits above the public good.
Earlier this year, an open records request was submitted to the Office of the Texas Attorney General, seeking all records reflecting any communications from any attorney or law firm soliciting employment from the state related to litigation against opioid manufactures.
Attorney General Ken Paxton had already dangled a hook last June by announcing that his office, along with most of the other attorneys general in the union, launched a bipartisan investigation to evaluate whether opioid manufactures engaged in unlawful practices.
Although the open records request was denied, the reason behind the denial at least shed some light as to why – an anticipated lawsuit likely fueled by case theories generously provided by hopeful trial lawyers.
“The Consumer Protection Division of the OAG (Paxton’s AG office) has opened both a general case investigation into opioid manufactures, as well as investigations of specific opioid manufactures, into potential violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” states the AG’s office reply to the request.
“If violations are uncovered, CPD will initiate enforcement proceedings. Accordingly, the OAG anticipates litigation in these matters.”
The reply states the requested documents are from “prospective co-counsels” laying out “suggested case theories,” and relate to the to the “anticipated litigation.”
“The documents have not been provided to any potential opposing parties,” the reply states. “Accordingly, the OAG asserts the requested information may be withheld in its entirety from required public disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code.”
Section 552.103 protects a governmental body’s position in litigation by forcing parties to obtain information through discovery.
Whichever firms end up representing Texas in its “anticipated” opioid lawsuit can most likely expect a big payday.
Decades ago, Texas joined the fray in the legal battle against big tobacco, enlisting the services of some of the state’s top trial lawyers who helped secure a $17.3 billion settlement and, not to mention, $3.3 billion in attorney’s fees for themselves.
And as opioid litigation continues to mount across the country, so do the comparisons between the current “health crisis” and the tobacco one of the 90s.
Following the denial of the open records request, the Record contacted the AG’s Office in an attempt to ascertain the names of the law firms Paxton had in mind to help steer the seemingly inevitable opioid lawsuit, but was shut down, twice.
So, for now, mum’s the word when it comes to which auspicious firms might be tapped to represent the Lone Star State in a likely multibillion-dollar action against big pharma.