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Monday, July 3, 2017

Opioid Litigation and Workers' Compensation

The newly initiated litigation by public entities against Big Pharma may prove to be a huge boost to the workers' compensation system. The lawsuits have the potential curtailing a massive drain of benefit dollars and may provide for subrogation as a result of the nations' opioid epidemic.

At a recent NJ State Bar Association meeting in May 2017 Atlantic City, Mark B. Zurulnik, an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law, referred to the potential of a such a lawsuit.

NPR reported today that, "A wave of litigation by state attorneys general against the biggest opioid manufacturers and distributors feels reminiscent of lawsuits brought by states in the 1990s against the tobacco industry." Click here to read the entire NPR report.

Third party litigation can impact workers' compensation programs in multiple ways. Historically, both the tobacco and asbestos litigation curtailed the use of the hazardous products going forward. Subrogation is yet another situation though. It requires the ability of the parties to establish specific liens. While this was easily done in asbestos occupational exposure litigation, it was much more difficult to seek individual reimbursement or set-off in claims caused by or complicated by tobacco use in the workplace.

Notwithstanding the public entity, opioid litigation is yet another social cause that may, in fact, improve the lives of injured workers and in the long run provide tremendous benefits to both employers and their insurance companies.

Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). 

For over 4 decades the
Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.