CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two Ohio counties have announced a settlement with major drug companies right at the start of a high-profile trial, and that puts a West Virginia case next up in the public eye.
A case involving Huntington and Cabell counties is up next among claims that the flow of prescription opioids from national drug firms devastated communities. The mayor of Huntington says he wants to go to trial.
“I want our day in court,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said in a telephone interview this morning.
“People in Huntington and in West Virginia have been asking the question how can this have happened in our city and our state. I want the opportunity to be in court so those sons of guns have to reveal just what has happened.”
The big news that put Huntington in the spotlight was the announced, $260 million settlement involving four drug companies right before a trial was set to begin in Cleveland, Ohio, this morning.
The deal is with “Big Three” distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health and Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli-based manufacturer of generic opioids.
The deal does not include Walgreens, a retail drug chain being sued over its distribution. Any trial involving Walgreens has been postponed.
The settlement by Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio follows the collapse of talks on Friday to reach a deal covering all the cases. Those discussions took place with U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster.
Over 10 hours, Polster conducted a sort of shuttle diplomacy among the drug companies, plaintiffs attorneys representing local governments and state attorneys general.
Attorney Paul Farrell Jr. representing Cabell County. The lawyer representing Huntington is Rusty Webb, who spoke about the settlement this morning on “580 Live” on WCHS Radio.
“Everybody’s going to pitch their tents and start focusing on the Cabell-Huntington case,” Webb said.
Although discussions were continuing among the parties in Cleveland this morning, Webb suggested a trial focused on the effects of opioids in Huntington could begin by early next year. U.S. District Judge David Faber would likely oversee such a trial, Webb said, possibly in Charleston.
“Judge Polster will contact Judge Faber and they will coordinate a scheduling order and it will be next year,” Webb said. “There’s no way you can prepare for a trial before Dec. 31.”
Huntington Mayor Williams said he is not in favor of moving forward with the multi-district settlement talks that could divide payment from the drug companies based on population.
“At the levels they’re talking about they’re just slapping us in the face again. Let’s go to trial and let the chips fall where they may,” Williams said. “All I know is we deserve our day in court to be able to look those guys in the eyes.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 21, 2019