Everywhere you turn, there are articles and news segments on the national opioid epidemic. The Poole Law Group is Maryland counsel for a consortium of law firms that are leading the mass tort action against the opioid distributors and manufacturers. The consortium is a litigation team of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A., Baron & Budd, PC, McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC, Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee & Deitzler, PLLC, Greene, Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, LLP and Powell & Majestro, PLLC.
In Maryland, we are representing Allegany County, Washington County, St. Mary's County, the City of Cumberland, the City of Frostburg, and the City of Hagerstown. Our clients are part of the 2,600 plaintiffs participating in the consolidated lawsuit known the National Prescription Opiate Litigation or Multi-District Litigation (MDL) 2804. The National Prescription Opiate Litigation is overseen by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in the Northern District of Ohio. The mass tort action is against the drug manufacturers and distributors (e.g., McKesson, Mallinckrodt, Purdue Pharma, Cardinal Health, and others) and the pharmacy defendants (e.g., Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, and others) who have failed to detect and report suspicious orders of opioids, despite being required to do so by federal and state law. All prescribed opioids must flow through the distributors as federal law requires that opioids be distributed in a closed system. This is a case of the watchdogs abusing their position and shipping massive quantities of drugs to pharmacies and dispensaries and doing so deliberately without checks or stopgaps. The Track One bellwether trial set for October 21, 2019 for Plaintiffs Summit and Cuyahoga Counties settled for $260 million a few hours before its opening. Those Defendants settling included distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson for a combined $235 million and Teva for an additional $25 million worth of Suboxone, the drug used to treat opioid addiction. Currently, the MDL 2804 has several additional bellwether cases prepared for trial but are being continued because of Covid-19:
- Bellwether Track One-B in Cleveland Ohio – Plaintiffs Summit and Cuyahoga Counties against pharmacy Defendants CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, etc. was to begin November 9, 2020. It has now been tentatively scheduled to begin in May, 2021 following the conclusion of the Track Three case.
- Bellwether Track Two in Huntington, West Virginia – Plaintiffs Huntington, West Virginia and Cabell County, West Virginia against Defendants McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen was to begin August 31, 2020. It was then moved to October 19, 2020. It has been moved again to January 4, 2021. This trial is in front of a judge and not a jury.
- Bellwether Track Three in Cleveland, Ohio -- This action involves Plaintiffs Lake and Trumbull Counties in Ohio against the national retail pharmacies for their role in both distributing and dispensing opioids. This trial is slated to begin May 10, 2021. This trial is unique for the counties are accusing the pharmacies of creating a “public nuisance” by failing to control the flow of painkillers into Ohio communities. This argument survived an August 2020 motion to dismiss.
- New York State trial brought by the Attorney General of New York against the manufacturers and distributors was to begin March 20, 2020 and then was postponed to October 28, 2020. It has been postponed again with jury selection to begin in January 2021 and the trial potentially to begin in February or March 2021 (Specific date TBA).
- Bellwether “Chicago” in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - Plaintiff City of Chicago against the Defendant manufacturers inclusive of Purdue Pharma. Trial date: TBA
- Bellwether “San Francisco” in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California – Plaintiff City of San Francisco against all major Defendant manufacturers and distributors, as well as Walgreens and Anda, Inc. On September 30, 2020, the Hon. Charles Breyer dismissed the City’s racketeering (RICO) allegations while allowing all other claims including public nuisance, unfair competition law (CA), and false advertising to move forward. Trial date: TBA
Information from ARCOS (Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders)—the DEA's reporting system for controlled substance transactions—is now publicly available which shows which companies supplied opioids and which companies distributed opioids in Washington, Allegany, St. Mary's and other counties around Maryland and the nation. The data also reveal which pharmacies dispensed the most opioids in any given county. The time period covered is from 2006 to 2012.
Our national trial team has reformatted the information so that the public can read summaries of the millions of lines of data. Those summary reports include “Total Dosage Units of 15 Opioid Drugs”, “State of Maryland and (X) County: 14 Opioid Drugs Dosage Units Market Share”, “Labeler Market Share by Drug, 2006-2012”, “Labeler Market Share by Morphine Milligram Equivalents (MME), 2006-2012” and “Opioid Shipments to Pharmacies”. This data is available at www.SLCG.com under the "opioids" tab. “Labeler” is another term for “manufacturer”.
While The Poole Law Group is prohibited from discussing specifics of the ongoing litigation, we will continue to post general updates as available.