Medical-Legal team petition for opioid affected infants and children to be removed from multi-district litigation
MEDICAL-LEGAL TEAM PETITION FOR OPIOID AFFECTED INFANTS AND CHILDREN TO BE REMOVED FROM MULTI-DISTRICT LITIGATION
Attorneys representing class actions filed on behalf of babies who will need life-long medical and other specialized care because of opioid use by their pregnant moms are requesting a specialized panel of federal judges to remove such cases from the Multi-District Litigation (MDL).
The filings represent almost 50 percent of all Neo-Natal Abstinence (NAS) or opioid-addicted babies born in the nation, according to Lead Counsel Scott Bickford and Celeste Brustowicz. Suits are filed in states such as Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, California and Missouri.
Earlier this summer, the Judge charged with control over the federal MDL involving government entities’ claims against opioid manufacturers and distributors rejected a request for the inclusion of NAS baby cases within a special litigation track. The request would create a nationwide medical monitoring trust fund for NAS babies within the existing MDL litigation regarding prescription opioids.
“Families of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) face hardships due to the extenuating circumstances to which they find themselves subject; these children, and their families need a voice, and need to be made whole,” said Counselor Bickford.
“The creation of a permanent medical monitoring trust fund puts the financial responsibility for this hardship where it belongs: On Big Pharma and not on cash-strapped government budgets and this nation’s taxpayers,” said Attorney Brustowicz.
Tens of thousands of infants born in the U.S. each year now have NAS, and a recent Centers for Disease Control report said the rate of NAS deliveries at hospitals quadrupled during the past 15 years.
The period of hospitalization for NAS infants averages 16 days and hospital costs for a typical newborn with NAS are $159,000-$238,000 greater than those of healthy newborns, according to the attorneys representing the NAS babies.
Dr. Kanwaljeet J. S. "Sunny" Anand, the nation’s foremost expert on opioids in infants and a Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, is a medical expert to the legal team. “There is an unprecedented epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping across the U.S.,” said Dr. Anand. “Newborn babies are the most vulnerable citizens, their lives and developmental potential are disrupted by NAS, but arrangements for their short-term and long-term care have been ignored until now. These babies need strong advocacy and legal action to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they urgently receive essential medical care and rehabilitation. On average, one infant with NAS is hospitalized every hour in the U.S.”
Named as defendants in the class actions are an array of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers, all of whom netted billions of dollars due to unfair and deceptive trade practices that preyed on all Americans, including the unborn, say the attorneys.
“A medical monitoring fund would document and address the medical problems these children will have to face for a lifetime,” said Mr. Bickford. The filing today objects to current settlement negotiations engaged by the opioid MDL which ignore the NAS babies’ interests.
“Legal precedent recognizes the difference between present and future claims in negotiations of this magnitude,” said Mr. Bickford. “Without being at the table, the legal representatives of NAS babies and children will not be heard and the due process rights of these infants and children will be denied.”
The filing says only government, hospital and third-party payors are at the table in negotiating a settlement through the MDL, though no agreement has yet been reached. The attorneys representing the NAS babies have raised concerns that outcomes similar to the Tobacco MDL settlement, where money was diverted to state budget deficits instead of the intended victims, might happen here.
Additional resources about NAS cases and MDL issues are available at this website: http://opioidjusticeteam.com/resources/
Additional comment: https://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/2018/08/24/in-the-opioid-litigation-who-represents-addicted-babies/
Attorneys: Scott Bickford (504) 581-9065 or Celeste Brustowicz (504) 399-0009
Media: Peter Mirijanian (202) 464-8803 or C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110