Federal opioid trial begins in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal trial about the shipment of prescription pills in West Virginia began Monday at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams

Huntington and Cabell County have filed lawsuits against drug wholesalers AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., in which the government bodies argue the companies should be held responsible for the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017, and blames the “Big Three” for fueling drug misuse by shipping nearly 100 million opioid pills to Cabell County over a decade.

“I’m pleased that we finally had our first day in court and able to state the reasons why we believe all of this happened and we’re able to hold folks accountable,” Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said. “Beyond that, it’s going to be a long couple of months.”

MORE Hoppy’s commentary on trial 

Attorney Paul Farrell presented the opening statement for the plaintiffs. He said the case was built on four main pillars including: volume of pills, black flags the distributors should have noticed, the morphine molecule and the opioid epidemic.

Paul Farrell (Photo/WV Record)

Farrell said the “Big 3” have “notice, foreseeability, and acknowledgement” of a problem but they do very little about it.

“Instead of complying they sold more pills,” Farrell said.

During its opening statements, the distributors all said the federal Drug Enforcement Agency controls the supply of drugs and their instructions were followed.  The defense also pointed at budget decisions made by the City of Huntington to cut funding for law enforcement and a drug task force.

Williams said the truth about the “Big 3″ will continue to be presented in the weeks to come. He was asked by reporters Monday his message for Huntington residents.

“You’re not alone. You’ve never been alone. We’re here to fight for you so you never have to go through this again,” Williams said.

The landmark case is a bench trial being heard by U.S. District Judge David Faber.

Proceedings will resume Tuesday at 9 a.m. with the plaintiff’s case. Attorneys are expected to begin their case with the history of Huntington.


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