×

UPDATE 1-U.S. Justice Department seeks role in opioid settlement talks

(Adds further details on brief, background on litigation)

April 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday sought court permission to participate in settlement negotiations aimed at resolving lawsuits by state and local governments against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Justice Department in a brief said it wanted to participate in talks overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, as a "friend of the court" that would provide information to facilitate non-monetary remedies to the opioid crisis.

"In particular, the United States has expertise and information that can assist the parties in carefully crafting non-monetary remedies that will effectively combat the opioid crisis on a nationwide basis, all in accordance with applicable law," the brief said.

The brief came after the Justice Department last month asked U.S. District Judge Dan Polster for 30 days to decide whether to participate in the litigation given the costs the federal government had incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called for litigation against companies over their roles in the opioid epidemic.

But Monday's brief signaled that the Justice Department will not be seeking to participate as an active litigant in the litigation before Polster, who is overseeing at least 433 lawsuits primarily by cities and counties against corporations.

Polster has been pushing for a quick, global settlement in the litigation, and has invited state attorneys general who have cases in state courts or who are conducting a multistate probe of the companies to participate in those talks.

The defendants include opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC and Allergan PLC and drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Leslie Adler and Tom Brown)