La. governor and AG go to court over control of opioid lawsuit

The Louisiana governor and attorney general are feuding over who should spearhead a lawsuit against drug manufacturers (Source: WAFB)
The Louisiana governor and attorney general are feuding over who should spearhead a lawsuit against drug manufacturers (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana governor and attorney general returned to court Friday, this time over who gets to control a lawsuit against drug manufacturers.

In September, as the opioid crisis held its grip on Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen major drug companies, claiming they helped make the epidemic worse.

But Attorney General Jeff Landry wants to take charge of the suit, arguing he can broaden it to include more state agencies. He says in other states, the attorneys general – not individual departments – are the ones going after the manufacturers.

"The governor's involvement in the way they brought this suit endangers the ability of the state to recover the damages that the people of this state who have been affected by this crisis deserve," Landry said in an interview after the hearing.

But the Edwards administration argues the department has every right to handle the lawsuit itself. "It's the governor's responsibility, it's the secretary's responsibility to make sure that losses for the Department of Health, for the Medicaid program are pursued," said Matthew Block, executive counsel for the governor.

The legal fight is the latest public feud between the two state leaders. They have already gone toe-to-toe over the governor's executive order protecting members of the LGBT community. Both sides accuse the other of playing politics.

"The governor being a lawyer, wants to be the attorney general and the governor. He should decide. He could have run for attorney general, he didn't," Landry said.

"It's not something where the governor is doing this to score a political victory over the attorney general," Block said. "The governor is doing this, the secretary is doing this because it's in the best interest of the department."

19th Judicial District Judge Wilson Fields heard the arguments Friday. He said he will make a ruling on the dispute on Tuesday, February 20.

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