Summit County is preparing for a landmark October trial against dozens of opioid manufacturers and distributors by allowing settlements with some of the smaller defendants in the case.

After a 15-minute executive session, Summit County Council on Monday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the county executive to settle claims in the national prescription opiate litigation before Judge Dan Polster in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Ohio with any manufacturing or distributor defendants with less than a 10% share of the opioid market in Summit County.

"We are set for trial on Oct. 21, and in anticipation of that trial coming up, we wanted to have some authority in order to reach settlements with some of the smaller defendants in the litigation without having to convene council, you know, just for that purpose,” said Jason Dodson, chief of staff to Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. “So this gives us that authority to settle those.”

Any settlement agreements would otherwise have to be brought before county council each time.

Dodson declined to name the defendants the resolution would apply to; he also declined to comment on the status of the negotiations or any pending settlements.

“We typically don't comment on ongoing litigation matters until they're resolved,” he said.

The sprawling, costly, enormously complicated agglomeration of lawsuits filed against nearly two dozen big drug companies is now being litigated in federal court in Cleveland. The plaintiffs are approximately 2,000 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other local government entities.

They accuse the drug manufacturers of understating the risks of the opioids, and accuse the distributors of failing to monitor suspiciously large orders.

Polster has urged the parties to settle. He has set a firm trial date of Oct. 21. Summit and Cuyahoga counties are serving as the bellwether cases representing all the plaintiffs.

Industry attorneys have denied wrongdoing by their clients, saying they were making and distributing legal drugs intended for patients in legitimate need of pain relief.

 

The Washington Post contributed to this article. Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.