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Ohio Judge Will Oversee 64 Opioid Lawsuits From 7 States

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine handles a box of Narcan during a news conference on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Ohio is among the states suing drug companies for fueling the opioid epidemic.

Dozens of lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states across the country against opioid manufacturers and distributors will be consolidated in an Ohio court after a ruling issued by a group of federal judges Tuesday.

The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ruled 64 lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies in nine federal district courts will have their pretrial motions overseen by Judge Dan Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland.

The consolidation is part of the federal multidistrict litigation process, which allows both plaintiffs and defendants to request to have complex civil cases that address common legal questions heard by one court.

The 64 cases allege that a group of opioid distributors and manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, and McKesson Corporation, among others, “overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks” of their opioid medications, “aggressively marketed” them to doctors, and failed to monitor and investigate suspicious orders.

The consolidation includes two cases from Northeast Ohio filed by the cities of Lorain and Parma, as well as 14 cases filed in the Southern District of Ohio, including lawsuits from Cincinnati, Dayton and a number of counties.

Cases filed in Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Washington and West Virginia are also included in the multidistrict litigation transfer order.

In the written decision signed by Chair Sarah Vance from the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Panel says northern Ohio not only has a strong connection to the case because of the quick rise of opioid overdose deaths its experienced over the past several years, but is a geographically central location, making travel easier and lessening the cost of the suits for plaintiffs, defendants and eventual witnesses.

The ruling also points out that Cardinal Health, one of the largest manufacturers included in the suits, is based in Ohio.

The decision mentions 115 other cases have been filed outside of federal court that deal with similar claims.

Those cases, including the lawsuits filed by Cuyahoga County and Attorney General Mike DeWine in county Common Pleas Courts, could also be moved to the Northern District of Ohio.

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.