The opioid addiction issue is headed for the next stop on what is now a well-worn path: from public health crisis, to subject for award-winning and heart-tugging journalism, to payday for trial lawyers. The lawyers are poised to do to prescription drug companies, pharmacy chains, and drug distributors what they did to tobacco companies and asbestos manufacturers—wring from them a multibillion dollar settlement, with a sizeable chunk going to the lawyers themselves.
They may even do so with an assist from President Trump. "Hopefully we can do some litigation against the opioid companies," Trump said earlier this month at a White House "Opioids Summit." "I think it's very important because a lot of states are doing it, but I keep saying, if the states are doing it, why isn't the federal government doing it? So that will happen."
It wasn't so long ago that Republican presidents stood for reining in civil litigation rather than piling on to it, laments Ira Stoll. The idea of making public company shareholders foot the bill for a public health crisis is so flaky and potentially counterproductive that it's the sort of thing only a trial lawyer, or a politician, could have dreamed up.