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In July, Attorney General Keith Ellison joined a multistate coalition and announced a $26 billion agreement with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson as well as pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. (Photo: K-State Research and Extension)

Bar Buzz: Opioids, coming suits, settlements and more

The Lead

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 21 approved a resolution supporting the state opioid settlement agreement and authorizing County Administrator Larry Kleindl to execute all documents necessary for the county to participate in the settlement. Kandiyoki County is just one county signing on before the deadline to join the blockbuster settlement.

Back in July, Attorney General Keith Ellison joined a multistate coalition and announced a $26 billion agreement with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson as well as pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. The giant opioid settlement closed around 4,000 lawsuits that were filed across the country against the parties for the role that they played in the opioid crisis.

Minnesota will receive around $330 million over the next 18 years. Spending will be overseen by Minnesota’s Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council. On Dec. 6, Gov. Tim Walz and Ellison announced that they had reached an agreement where 75% of the funds received from the settlement would go directly in payments to cities and counties with populations over 30,000, while the other 25% would go to the state of Minnesota. The state’s share will be placed in a special opioid abatement account.

Ellison said at the time, “No amount of money can ever make up for the death and destruction that opioid manufacturers and distributors caused in their pure pursuit of profit. No amount of money can bring back the 5,500 lives we’ve lost in Minnesota or fully restore the families and communities devastated in every part of our state. Now, we’ve brought together cities and counties from across Minnesota in a historic agreement to extract the maximum amount of money possible from these companies and get it to where the pain is, so we can address the suffering of families and communities in every part of our state as quickly as possible.”

Walz declared, “This is an important milestone that will help bring relief to countless families in the form of treatment and prevention to combat the opioid epidemic.”

Minnesota counties and cities were urged to review and approve the agreement before Jan. 2, to maximize funds received from the national settlement.

Opioid overdose has been an epidemic in Minnesota, particularly in tribal communities and communities of color. American Indians are seven times as likely to die from a drug overdose as white Minnesotans. In 2019, there were 428 deaths due to opioid overdose. This number is sourced from Minnesota death certificates, although the number is likely higher.

League of Minnesota Cities Executive Director David Unmacht avowed, “Cities of every region and size have been impacted by this crisis, and this plan gives all access to greater resources, partnerships, and solutions. We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with our county and state partners in creating a plan that is best for the entire state.”

A sign reading "Sleep Number"

Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr

Coming Soon…

Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP announced on Dec. 24 that a federal securities class action was filed against Sleep Number Corporation in the U.S. District Court in Minnesota. The class action was filed on behalf of all persons and entities who purchased or otherwise acquired Sleep Number securities between Feb. 18 and July 20, 2021. In February, Winter Storm Uri disrupted the supply chain; more than $50 million of deliveries shifted out of the quarter due to temporary foam supply constraints. This caused the company to miss consensus sales estimates, as Sleep Number stock fell 12%. In July, Sleep Number released its second-quarter financial results, against missing consensus estimates. Stock fell another 12.88%.

Nick Mainville has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota alleging he was paid less than minimum wage when employed as a Domino’s pizza delivery driver. Mainville was employed in Wisconsin, working as a delivery driver since 2017. He alleged that he was not reimbursed for work-related expenses that came from being a delivery driver, mainly the use of his personal cellphone and vehicle. Mainville argues that drivers ought to have been reimbursed for vehicle depreciation, gas, insurance, and data charges. Since drivers were making minimum wage, paying out of pocket for those costs put them below minimum wage. He also alleges that drivers were reimbursed less than the IRS standard business mileage rate. Mainville seeks collective and class certification for Domino’s delivery drivers working at the 178 stores across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Dakota, and South Dakota.


Minnesota commerce department logoThe Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that it reached a settlement with MoneyLion on Dec. 22. MoneyLion is an online lender based in New York that failed to get licensed by Minnesota before extending loans to Minnesota. Some of those loans had interest rates up to 645%. In Minnesota, if loan interest rates exceed statutorily allowed amounts, regulated lenders must be licensed and must also provide consumers with truth-in-lending disclosures. Under the terms of the settlement, MoneyLion will pay a $100,000 fine to the state. It will also refund some Minnesota consumers and cancel certain loans.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced a settlement with Bruening Rock Products Inc. on Dec. 15. In 2018, a truck driver was sexually harassed by employees on three separate occasions, including offensive comments of a sexual nature, sexual advances, and unwanted touching. The company did have a sexual harassment policy, but a Department of Human rights investigation found it was not being enforced. The truck driver’s supervisor failed to act after the driver reported an incident. When interviewed, one harasser was told to not worry about anything. The department determined that this inaction condoned an unlawful workplace culture and allowed harassers to engage in their behavior without repercussions. The former Bruening Rock employee will be paid for lost wages and damages. Additionally, Bruening Rock will be required to make organizational changes including mandatory anti-harassment training.

U.S. Bank has quietly and confidentially settled with Joe Morrow, a black Minnesota worker. Morrow went to a U.S. Bank branch in Columbia Heights to cash his paycheck. Although Morrow had a U.S. Bank account, proper identification, and a real check, he was accused of presenting a phony check and was subsequently handcuffed. U.S. Bank’s CEO Andy Cecere wrote a letter to the Minneapolis community on Dec. 10, apologizing for the incident and committing to expanding employee training.

JBS has reached settlements with a number of direct and indirect buyers totaling $50 million. This led to eight restaurants and retail chains entering stipulations of dismissal in federal court on Dec. 17. Those restaurants include Buffalo Wild Wings and Subway. The original class action lawsuit was filed in 2018. In the lawsuit, the restaurants alleged that JBS and other pork producers restricted pork supply, thus manipulating prices.

Medtronic has agreed to pay $400,000 to South Dakota in order to resolve allegations that it provided kickbacks to Dr. Wilson Asfora, a neurosurgeon. Medtronic paid for more than 100 social events over a nine-year period at a restaurant owned by Asfora at Asfora’s request. This was allegedly done to persuade Asfora to use Medtronic products.


U.S. Magistrate Judge Kate M. Menendez was confirmed by the Senate to fill the vacancy on Minnesota’s federal court. President Biden nominated Menendez in September. Menendez graduated from NYU law school and worked as a federal public defender for 18 years. Additionally, she was an adjunct law professor at all three Minnesota law schools.

Law School Excellence

Carol Chomsky (left) and Angelique EagleWoman

Carol Chomsky (left) and Angelique EagleWoman

University of Minnesota Law Professor Carol Chomsky will be honored with the inaugural Essence of SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) Award on Jan. 7. As part of the group of 10 law professors who make up the “Collaboratory on Legal Education and Licensing for Practice,” Chomsky has addressed racism, equity, and justice and how those concerns affect practices in bar licensing.

Mitchell Hamline School of Law has greenlighted a new certificate after winning faculty approval. Law students will now be able to earn a certificate through the Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute. Students will learn Indigenous legal principles, tribal law, and acquire skills to practice in fore involving Native American law. According to NALS Institute director and professor Angelique EagleWoman, Mitchell Hamline will be recognized nationally with the National Native American Bar Association and the American Indian Law Center.

The opioid and Sleep Number photos with this article were made available through a Creative Commons license:


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About Laura Brown

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