Over the past several years, the opioid crisis in America has gained national attention, with certain industries being particularly hard hit by the crisis. Construction workers who suffer personal injury are often prescribed opioids and ultimately, costs of resolving personal injury lawsuits for Defendants, whether via settlement or judgments, are being affected by the crisis. As more workers have been prescribed opioids, more become addicted, ultimately becoming unable to return to work. As a result, for Defendants named in Illinois construction suits, a smaller injury claim can quickly escalate. Recently, two construction unions representing workers in Chicago’s market have joined forces, filing a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the manufacturer of OxyContin, and dozens of other drug companies, professional organizations, and distributors. The lawsuit, filed February 6, 2019 by the Chicago Regional Counsel of Carpenters and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, alleges that the named defendants promoted opioid use and increased reliance on the drugs, ultimately leading to overdoses and fatalities. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages and asserts numerous counts including fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence, and violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. The suit’s filing represents the first affirmative legal steps in Illinois against such pharmaceutical companies by the construction industry. Representatives of the unions have noted that injuries within their membership have ultimately led to opioid addictions, thereby costing the union’s Health Fund millions of dollars as more and more union members have become dependent. Thus far, the named defendants in the lawsuit have not commented on the litigation. We will continue to monitor this suit, and recognize it may be just the beginning of the construction industry tackling this issue. If you have any questions about this issue, please contact Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Katie E. Gorrie, Joseph B. Carini, III or Joseph F. Spitzzeri, who are members of our Construction Practice Group.
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