Time for City to cut bait on this fishy lawsuit

Travis Akin Nov. 24, 2014, 3:51pm

Turn on the TV midday or late night and you’re likely to see an ad from a personal injury lawyer practically begging you to sue someone. Some of these ads actually feature personal injury lawyers waving wads of cash, hoping to entice someone into joining them in a quest for a big payday.

The City of Chicago, facing huge budget deficits and poor planning, has been desperately searching for a new pool of money to cover their shortfall and has now decided to team up with a group of personal injury lawyers in pursuit of one giant jackpot.

The Emanuel administration and one of the most aggressive personal injury law firms in the country have formed an unholy alliance to file a lawsuit against five pharmaceutical manufacturers, accusing those companies of deceptively marketing opiod painkillers by misrepresenting their benefits and concealing their health risks. The Emanuel administration alleges that this marketing has increased the City’s health care costs.

At the urging of the personal injury lawyer firm, the City has filed the lawsuit despite the fact that the FDA is already addressing the issues at the heart of the lawsuit. But that ongoing and scientifically-rigorous process run by the FDA won’t help the City cover its budget shortfall or make millions for the personal injury lawyers.

This is an unnecessary and deeply-flawed lawsuit that is ultimately going to cost Chicago taxpayers money. Even worse, the Emanuel administration and the personal injury lawyers are fighting hard to make sure we don’t know exactly how much money is being spent on this questionable lawsuit. The City refuses to disclose the hourly fees it is paying the personal injury lawyer firm despite Freedom of Information Act requests for that important information.

The Emanuel administration has preached transparency in governing, but their actions in this case do not match their words. The one thing the Emanuel administration actually has done publicly, however, is try to move this lawsuit from federal court to Cook County court. The reason for this is not surprising: a study from Harris Interactive Research ranked Cook County courts the most unfair and pro-plaintiff in the country.

This case could drag on and on before finally being dismissed, and the taxpayers will be on the hook for the cost of the personal injury lawyers’ fishing expedition. It’s time for the City to cut bait on this fishy lawsuit and get out of the personal injury lawyers’ boat.

This unholy alliance between major city and county governments and personal injury lawyers to target companies is a growing trend nationwide. Sure, cities such as Chicago claim they are just concerned about people’s health but this is nothing more than a money grab. If this lawsuit were truly about health concerns – why has the City ignored the role doctors play in prescriptions? Patients cannot get these prescription medications without a doctor being involved.

Travis Akin is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

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