Unprecedented approaches to trial wave in opioid crisis litigation

Landmark verdicts and settlements have already occurred in sweeping opioid litigation against big pharma. This trend continues as these companies prepare for a massive new wave of trials in the coming weeks. Calendars from March to May in some of the nation’s most prominent courts are filled with six opioid trials reminiscent of the first U.S. opioid trials that began nearly three years ago. In 2022, 12 opioid trials are planned, as many big pharma companies have yet to reach global settlements in these cases.

Rhode Island State Court

The affair of State of Rhode Island v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number PC-2018-4555, was originally scheduled to begin on March 16. Superior Court in the state of Rhode Island, Providence County, has pushed back opening arguments to March 21, reportedly in anticipation of a settlement. The Rhode Island Attorney General announced that it has reached an agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals and several of its subsidiaries. The settlement is worth about $100 million, including $21 million in cash paid over 13 years and donations of drugs to treat opioid addiction. Specifically, Rhode Island will receive 50,000 kits, a ten-year supply, of Naloxone, worth $62.5 million, and $16 million of Suboxone from Teva. Naloxone treats opioid overdoses and Suboxone treats opioid use disorder.

Teva was the only defendant remaining to stand trial after Rhode Island AG reached prior settlements with the other defendants. Teva has already sued two other opioid cases, one in California, which it won, and one in New York, which it lost. Teva has also reached settlements in opioid cases with the states of Texas and Louisiana.

Georgia State Court

All of the opioid cases have relied on a legal theory that pharmaceutical companies have created “public nuisance” and must bear the costs of cleaning up that nuisance through the treatment and prevention of opioid use. The affair of Poppell et al. vs. Cardinal Health et al., file number CE19-00472, is different. The plaintiffs in this case consist of twenty-one private citizens who are the spouses, children, siblings and parents of people who became addicted to opioids. Most complainants are minor children. They are seeking compensation from Cardinal Health and other pharmaceutical companies for their losses under the Georgia Drug Dealer Liability Act.

A trial in that case, pending in Superior Court in the State of Georgia, Brunswick County, was scheduled to begin on March 21, 2022. However, the court informed jurors that they were excused and that the trial would not continue. . this date due to a “conflict of lawyers”.

Florida State Court

Trial in case of State of Florida v. Purdue Pharma et al., Case Number 2018-CA-001438, was scheduled to begin in Florida State Circuit Court, Pasco County, Sixth Judicial District, on April 4, 2022. The Florida Attorney General previously settled with multiple defendants in the trial. Still, he was set to stand trial against drug companies Teva and Allergan, as well as drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens.

Allergan, CVS and Teva announced a settlement agreement on March 30, 2022, whereby they will pay the State of Florida $879 million over 18 years. CVS agreed to assume $484 million of the deal due to its failure to monitor opioid prescriptions in the state, which led to a Justice Department lawsuit against the chain. Allergan will pay $134 million over ten years, while Teva will pay $177 million over 15 years and donate $84 million in opioid overdose medications to the state. As a result, the trial did not proceed as planned against these defendants, although trial was still scheduled against Walgreens and other defendants.

West Virginia State Court

Opening arguments began April 4, 2022 in the Opioid Crisis Cases in West Virginia Circuit Court, Kanawha County. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has made his first case against Teva, Allergan and Janssen over allegations that drug companies were responsible for a drug epidemic that has bankrupted families, led to new -born addicts and caused more than 10,000 deaths in ten years.

The West Virginia case hinges on alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act, the West Virginia Controlled Substances Act and the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, covering unfair or deceptive marketing practices.

Lawyers for the respective pharmaceutical companies pushed back against the state’s claims, saying the percentage of opioids West Virginia doctors prescribe was low, the doctors prescribed the drugs appropriately, and the companies did not use any inappropriate marketing tactics to influence physicians to prescribe the drug.

The cases are State of West Virginia ex rel. Morrisey vs. Teva Pharmaceutical Industriescase number 19-C-104, and State of West Virginia ex rel. Morrisey v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. et al.case number 19-C-105.

San Francisco Federal Court

The affair of City and County of San Francisco et al. vs. Purdue Pharma LP et al.Case Number 3:18-cv-07591, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is due for trial on April 25, 2022. This case is distinctive in that it acts as a landmark case for multidistrict litigation.

San Francisco has one of the highest opiate overdose rates in the country. Government officials estimate that the streets of the city are home to more than 25,000 injecting drug users, which has easily tripled in recent years. The upcoming lawsuit against Allergan, Teva, Endo and Walgreens will focus on liability. If one of the companies is found liable, the court will provide a separate procedure for damages. There are also questions about whether a victory for the drugmakers in a Southern California court last year would impact any of the claims if it holds up on appeal.

Ohio Federal Court

Another landmark multidistrict litigation case is set for a damages trial May 10 in federal court in Ohio. A jury found CVS, Walgreens and Walmart liable for the misuse of prescription narcotics in Lake and Trumbull counties after a trial in November 2021. The counties will likely seek a relief plan that would require defendants to pay approximately $3 million dollars over 15 years. Meanwhile, Walgreens and Walmart appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and asked it to block the reparations lawsuit based on alleged errors by the district court judge, including issues with the misconduct of a juror.

The cases are Lake County v. Purdue Pharma LP et al.Case Number 1:18-op-45032; Trumbull County v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., Case Number 1:18-op-45079; and In re: National Prescription Opioid Litigationcase number 1:17-md-02804, US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

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