The Ohio federal judge overseeing the massive multidistrict litigation involving local governments accusing pharmaceutical companies, drug distributors and pharmacies of fueling the opioid epidemic laid out timelines for an active litigation phase to work through difficult legal issues in order to expedite a settlement in the case. The Judge also directed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to pony up information about the sales of opioids, something the DEA has been reluctant to do.
In addition to the two orders, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster also consolidated three lawsuits in the MDL brought by Ohio local governments and scheduled them for a three-week bellwether trial scheduled for March 18, 2019. He also indicated that he “does not intend to move the trial date” regardless of how long discovery takes. Judge Polster also created schedules for amended complaints and motions to dismiss by local governments, including Alabama.
Last month, attorneys from local governments gathering information in the multidistrict litigation and DEA officials appeared to be at an impasse regarding the mountain of data the DEA has on opioid sales. At the time, Judge Polster appeared to sympathize with both sides.
But this week, he aimed to break through that wall by telling the DEA that its concerns over jeopardizing corporate trade secrets and compromising law enforcement investigations if it shared opioid sales information were “not well-taken.” He also pointed out that plaintiffs were also laying part of the blame for the opioid epidemic on the lack of law enforcement.
The bottom line, he said, is “there is overwhelming need for the plaintiffs in this case to learn the truth surrounding marketing and distribution of opioids, including what the manufacturers, distributors, retailers and DEA knew and when they knew it.”