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Md. hires Baltimore, California firms to work on potential opioid litigation

Steven D. Silverman

Steven D. Silverman

A group of law firms, including one based in Maryland, will work with the state as outside counsel on possible litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Board of Public Works approved the contract Wednesday, allowing the Maryland Office of the Attorney General to bolster its ongoing efforts investigating pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid crisis.

Under the agreement, the three law firms — Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP in San Diego, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP in San Francisco, and Silverman Thompson Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore — will receive anywhere from 2 to 8 percent of any monetary recovery depending on when and how the litigation ends.

Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said Monday the firms bring expertise in complex litigation as well as in the national wave of litigation against the makers and distributors of drugs like Oxycontin.

Steven D. Silverman, of Silverman Thompson, said the team is “extremely well-funded with a deep bench” prepared to assist the attorney general.

“Whatever small or large part we can be a part of a solution, professionally this is incredibly rewarding,” he said. “This is a once in a lifetime blending of social responsibility and legal acumen to be able to positively affect the community.”

Robbins Geller is already involved in cases filed by county and local governments in Maryland, which were filed in federal court and transferred to multi-district litigation in Ohio for consolidated pretrial proceedings. Lieff Cabraser has filed opioid lawsuits around the country.

Representatives from the out-of-state firms did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Though the Attorney General’s Office has been pursuing its own investigation of opioid companies, including filing charges against Insys Therapeutics last year alleging violations of state consumer protection laws, the number of potential defendants and “enormous scope of these ongoing investigations” required the assistance of outside counsel, according to a memo about the contract prepared for the BPW.

Frosh said the state continues to participate in multi-state investigations but that hiring outside counsel to work on a parallel track toward possible litigation is a contingency plan.

There is no final decision on whether the state will pursue administrative remedies against potential defendants, as it has with Insys, or if it will file a massive lawsuit like other jurisdictions have.

“We’re going to evaluate our options and we’ll take the best course,” Frosh said. “It may vary from company to company; we may decide it’s best to do one thing for all of them.”

Most of the cases brought by Maryland governments are in federal court, but Anne Arundel County and Baltimore are litigating in their local state courts. Frosh said he wishes them “great success” but said they have different cases from anything the state could bring.

“We’re watching their cases and we’re rooting for them, and we’ll be taking a slightly different route,” he said.

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