Big 3 challenging decision to combine city-county opioid cases in global trial

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The “Big 3” opioid distributors want the state Supreme Court to stop a state trial set for next summer where 63 municipalities and counties in West Virginia will claim the companies are liable for the opioid epidemic.

Rusty Webb

Attorneys for AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson filed a petition this week with the High Court seeking a writ of prohibition. The companies are challenging a decision by the judges on the state’s Mass Litigation Panel to combine the lawsuits from the cities and counties.

Attorney Rusty Webb, who represents several of the cities and county commissions, says the drug distributors want separate discovery and separate trials.

“They want to receive individual discovery from all of the individual plaintiffs from which there are 63 in the state court system and not to conduct this global trial on liability in West Virginia,” Webb said.

The MLP has scheduled the trial for next July.

MORE Read petition here

The petition asks three questions of the High Court claiming the MLP has committed clear legal error and has exceeded its power.

Webb said the plaintiffs are making similar claims and the panel was correct in combining the cases into one trial. He said any attempt to separate them would just slow things down.

“Any delay is going to be a big delay. Both sides need the full six months to litigate the issue. We need the entire time, we can’t take any of that time off,” Webb said.

Phase 1 of the cases in state court focuses on liability. A Phase 2 trial will focus on damages.

Webb expects the High Court to rule on the petition in the near future.

Meanwhile, the three distributors are awaiting a verdict from U.S. District Judge David Faber in the case filed by the City of Huntington and Cabell County. That federal nuisance trial was completed earlier this year.

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