COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lawyers are asking a federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits filed against manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs to create a negotiating group consisting solely of U.S. towns, cities and counties.

The goal of a motion filed Friday in federal court in Cleveland is to create a system for the country’s 25,000 municipalities to benefit from any future settlement reached through the lawsuits.

Joseph Rice is a South Carolina-based attorney representing local governments in the complaint. He says the request would also help the manufacturers and distributors by defining a finalized group of entities benefiting from a settlement.

Hundreds of lawsuits accuse pharmaceutical companies of downplaying the addictive nature of opioids and prescription painkillers largely blamed for one of the deadliest drug crises in U.S. history.

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