Monday, September 13, 2021

HERO Act: COVID-19 safety measures for private sector employers.

Earlier this year, the HERO Act passed in New York State. This law requires all private sector employers to adopt safety standards and workplace procedures that protect workers from COVID-19 or other airborne infectious diseases.

In furtherance of the law, the New York State Department of Labor and Department of Health have developed a new Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard, a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease.

These plans must go into effect when an airborne infectious disease is designated by the New York State Commissioner of Health as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health.

Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.

Currently, while private employers must adopt plans as required by the law, as of the date of this writing no designation has been made and plans are not required to be in effect.

Public sector employers are currently exempt from the new state law.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Schuyler County to receive up to $121,000 from opioid lawsuit against Johnson and Johnson

Schuyler County will receive up to  $121,000.00  from Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker.


Meeting in special session on Wednesday (September 8), the County Legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents on the county’s behalf.


According to Getman, the funds can be used for a variety of restricted and unrestricted purposes.


“Possible uses include supporting  law  enforcement  and  first  responders, treating opioid  addiction,  funding social services and similar efforts,” Getman explained.


The drug maker also agreed to permanently end the manufacture and distribution of opioids across the nation, Getman said.


The funding is part of a $260 million settlement that Johnson & Johnson reached in New York State to finalize lawsuits brought by Schuyler County, the State of New York and others, pertaining to the company’s alleged role in the increase of use and abuse of opioids.


In 2018, Getman, working with law firm Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC as special counsel, filed a lawsuit against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry.  Along with Johnson and Johnson/Janssen, the defendants included: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc. 


The lawsuit alleged the defendants knew–and had known for years–that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.


Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for what the counties claimed were deceptive marketing practices.


After the counties filed suit, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office filed its own lawsuit on behalf of the state.   In June, Attorney General Letitia James announced the tentative deal with Johnson and Johnson, calling the largest monetary settlement ever secured by her office.


Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come. 


 “Over the past few years, despite its small population, Schuyler County has seen an uptick in opioid and heroin use and overdose,” Getman said. “To date, County officials have expended public resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths. This settlement is just one step to reimburse the County for its expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle.”


Johnson and Johnson has stated the settlement was not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by them and the company “remains committed to providing certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for communities in need.”


The lawsuits by Schuyler County and others are part of a tide of litigation over an epidemic linked to nearly 500,000 deaths over the last twenty years. The cases have drawn comparisons to the multistate litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s.  Those lawsuits were resolved as part of the landmark $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement announced in November 1998 between the tobacco industry and the states’ attorney generals.


A complete copy of Schuyler County’s lawsuit can be found here


A copy of the county’s resolution approving the settlement can be found here.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Second Amendment Legal Update: September, 2021

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete PDF copy of this month's update, click here.