The Opioid Epidemic

Thursday, September 26, 2019  |  10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Lipton Hall, D'Agostino Hall

The United States is currently struggling with one of its worst-ever drug crises. Every week, over nine hundred people die from opioid-related overdoses. Moreover, millions of Americans suffer from opioid addictions. Besides the risks it poses to public health, the crisis constitutes a threat to national security and a drag on the economy. Substantial evidence suggests that opioid marketing largely contributed to the crisis. 

We are pleased to present a conference on "the Opioid Epidemic," co-hosted by the Classical Liberal Institute at NYU Law, the Center on Civil Justice at NYU Law, and the NYU Journal of Law & Business. This conference, featuring two panels and a keynote speech, will focus on litigation surrounding the opioid epidemic as well as regulation and reform issues related to the crisis. Panelists will discuss the lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, different defense strategies and the most effective way to structure settlement agreements, the strengths and weaknesses of current regulation, and different reform options in order to effectively address this major health and social crisis. The keynote speech will be delivered by the Honorable Diane Wood (Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit).

Panel 1: Opioid Litigation

This panel focused on lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, different defense strategies, and the most effective way to structure settlement agreements. Panelists included attorneys who represent both plaintiffs and defendants, allowing for a comprehensive conversation about the current litigation surrounding the opioid epidemic. Panelists discussed the main focus and targets of litigation surrounding the opioid epidemic, the impact of pharmaceutical companies declaring bankruptcy prior and during litigation and the main hurdles that plaintiffs must overcome in order to successfully bring suit against pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, the panelists analyzed whether any guidance can be derived from the settlements arising out of the Tobacco litigation in the 1990s and how any settlements should be distributed.

•    Arthur Miller, Faculty Co-Director, Center on Civil Justice; Professor,  NYU School of Law

• David Bernick, Partner, Paul Weiss
• Sheila Birnbaum, Partner, Dechert
• Jonathan Novak, Attorney, Fears Nachawati 
• Joseph Rice, Co-founder, Motley Rice

Keynote Address: Aggregate Litigation

Judge Wood discussed the various alternatives to the class-action mechanism that exist, either in the United States or in other countries, and possible mechanisms that might address the problems with the current scope of the class action under Rule 23(b)(3). She also touched on group litigation in a few representative countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada; litigation conducted by associations with the right to represent the interests of their members; and litigation following the model of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires “opt-in” procedures rather than “opt-out.” Finally, she commented on the tension between the obligation of courts to give every person his or her “day in court” and the goal of providing an efficient method of resolving small-claims disputes, along with effective remedies in those cases.

Panel 2: Opioid Regulation

Panel 2 focused on the strengths and weaknesses of current regulation, and different reform options in order to effectively address this major health and social crisis. Panelists discussed the role of clinical trials in the regulation of opioids, as well as the role of the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting system. Additionally, panelists examined other mechanisms the FDA implements in order to continually monitor approved drugs.

• Richard Epstein, Director, Classical Liberal Institute; Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law, NYU School of Law

• Magdalena Cerdá, Associate Professor of Population Health, NYU Langone Health; Director, NYU Center on Opioid Epidemiology and Policy
• Taleed El-Sabawi, Associate Professor, Elon University School of Law.
• Jennifer Olivais, Associate Professor, Seton Hall Law
• Patricia Zettler, Assistant Professor of Law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law