On Thursday, November 29, seven judges of the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) heard oral arguments as to why hundreds of thousands of infants born dependent on opioids should be allowed their own representation in a separate proceeding from the nationwide opioid litigation currently proceeding against several large pharmaceutical companies.

The Child Welfare League of America joined onto an amicus brief in support of the effort. States have joined together in a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical manufacturers of opioids to recover funds to offset the impact of opioids addiction.

Presently the Judicial Panel has consolidated all opioid-related cases before a single federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, including states, cities, insurance companies, individuals, and infants born dependent on opioids and are arguing to consolidate these cases in their own separate infant-related litigation against the pharmaceutical companies. Attorneys representing the Opioid Justice Team are representing infants born dependent on opioids. CWLA has submitted an amicus brief in support of that effort.
The effort against the pharmaceuticals is not unlike the 1998 state litigation against the tobacco industry that argued that states had absorbed enormous Medicaid costs due to smoking. The settlement with the industry resulted in states getting billions of dollars with that money spread out over several years for smoke cessation and other health care programs. Critics argue that states used the money to patch up state budgets in ways unrelated to health and smoke cessation

This effort on behalf of infants would seek a separate settlement for children suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Funds would not go to states but to a national trust fund that could support these infants throughout their lifetime and development and would also support ongoing research. Lawyers for the NAS babies argue the infants of the opioid crisis are not similarly situated to governmental entities and other victims that have different and far less complicated legal remedies, whereas the babies and children will need decades of care and damages. The NAS baby and infant cases would be consolidated in a new MDL: Infants Born Opioid-Dependent Products Liability Litigation.