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On the eve of trial in the Northern District of Ohio, three major opioid Distributors and a major Manufacturer of generic opioids settled claims against them for the negligent manufacture and distribution of their harmful products. On Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, just before opening statements in what was set to be the a groundbreaking Federal trial against these Defendants, Summit and Cuyahoga counties announced a settlement of approximately $260 million.

Prior to that settlement, the New York Times reported that the nation’s three largest drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKensson, were discussing a potential global settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits related to their involvement in the nation’s opioid epidemic. These discussions occurred less than a week before the opioid-related federal trial was set to begin in Ohio, where almost 2,500 pending lawsuits were consolidated as the “National Prescription Opiate Litigation.” However, these talks ultimately broke down and no global settlement was reached.

Now that the Summit and Cuyahoga County matters have been resolved, Plaintiffs in the Opioid MDL will focus their attention to the next cases chosen for trial. The judge overseeing the MDL, Judge Dan Polster, is known for his experience overseeing consolidated cases. Judge Polster has already made it clear that he would prefer a settlement to a trial, however, saying that a trial is unlikely to do anything to help the opioid epidemic. He hopes that instead, settlement money will be used to start working to fix the epidemic: “what I’m interested in doing is not just moving money around, because this is an ongoing crisis. What we’ve got to do is dramatically reduce the number of pills that are out there and make sure that the pills that are out there are being used properly. Because we all know that a whole lot of them have gone walking and with devastating results.”

Certainly, the fact that Defendants have settled the claims in the first two cases on courthouse steps bodes well for the victims of the opioid epidemic. However, until a global settlement is reached, the remaining opioid cases in federal and state courts will move forward towards trial.

Drug distributors previously filed a joint motion to dismiss the consolidated suit, which was denied. In the motion, Cardinal and other distributors argued that the companies are not liable for the opioid epidemic and placed the blame on “manufacturers that marketed the opioids, the doctors who prescribed (or mis-prescribed) them, the pharmacists who dispensed them and the pharmacy customers who misused or diverted them.”

As of now, it remains unclear whether a settlement will be reached, but it is promising to see attorneys from both sides willing to engage in these discussions.

If you or a loved one has been impacted by the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic, call Pogust Millrood toll free at 888-348-6787 or direct to our Pennsylvania office at 610-941-4204 to see if you are entitled to seek damages.

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