REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

McKesson, Endo face multi-billion dollar opioid trial in Alabama

(Reuters) – Alabama is about to take drug distributor McKesson Corp and prescribed drugs maker Endo Worldwide Plc to trial over claims they fueled the opioid epidemic because the state fights for a multi-billion dollar payout after rejecting a nationwide settlement.

Jury choice begins on Monday in Montgomery County Circuit Courtroom in a lawsuit by Alabama Legal professional Common Steve Marshall, who declined by a September deadline to affix a proposed $26 billion settlement by McKesson, two different distributors and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Alabama selected to reject that deal in order to “to pursue its own legal strategy to best address the impact of the opioid crisis on Alabama,” mentioned Mike Lewis, a spokesperson for the state’s Republican legal professional common.

Alabama in the case earlier than Choose J.R. Gaines is searching for a payout that might dwarf what different states would get via that nationwide deal, with the defendants saying the state is asking for damages in the vary of $10 billion to $20 billion.

Alabama accuses McKesson of failing to forestall the diversion of opioids for illicit functions and Endo of partaking in misleading advertising practices that misrepresented the painkillers’ advantages and downplayed their addictive dangers.

The state’s legal professionals at Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles contend that the businesses’ actions led to the abuse of opioids in Alabama, which had one of many highest prescription charges for the medication in the nation.

The state in its complaint says the businesses are answerable for burdening it with the growing financial and societal prices of responding to the consequences of the opioid epidemic and must be pressured to pay billions of {dollars} to treatment the general public nuisance they’ve created.

States have usually sought to power the businesses to pay for dependancy prevention and therapy packages.

The businesses deny wrongdoing. They argue that the state can’t set up that they triggered the opioid epidemic and that Alabama public nuisance regulation doesn’t apply to a hurt attributable to a product, reasonably than an interference with public property.

In an August summary judgment motion, McKesson additionally argued the state lacked proof the medication it distributed have been diverted and mentioned the rise in opioid shipments was due to not its actions however medical doctors writing extra prescriptions.

McKesson is being represented by Harlan Prater of Lightfoot, Franklin & White and H. Lewis Gillis of Means Gillis Legislation, whereas Carole Rendon of BakerHostetler is defending Endo.

Greater than 3,300 comparable lawsuits are pending towards drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies largely by states and native governments over an opioid abuse epidemic that U.S. authorities information exhibits led to just about 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019.

The state is one in all eight that opted to not settle with McKesson, who together with rivals AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Well being agreed in July to pay $21 billion to resolve hundreds of opioid lawsuits by different states and native governments.

Endo is just not part of that nationwide settlement. The corporate has mentioned it’s contemplating “strategic alternatives” if it can’t attain a worldwide settlement, and plaintiffs have raised the potential for Endo submitting for chapter.

Endo beforehand agreed to settle lawsuits by states or counties in New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Ohio for greater than $111 million.

Marshall’s workplace declined to specify precisely how a lot it’s searching for, however McKesson in an August movement pegged the state’s request at greater than $20 billion.

Endo in October mentioned the state was searching for not less than $10 billion to abate the epidemic and public nuisance the state claims they created, in addition to $1.65 billion in damages stemming for diminished earnings and gross sales tax revenues.

The case is State of Alabama v. Endo Well being Options Inc, et al, Montgomery County Circuit Courtroom, Alabama, No. CV-2019-901174.

For Alabama: Jere Beasley and Rhon Jones of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles; and Robert Prince of Prince Glover Hayes.

For McKesson: Harlan Prater of Lightfoot, Franklin & White and H. Lewis Gillis of Means Gillis Legislation.

For Endo: Carole Rendon of BakerHostetler.

Learn extra:

U.S. state officers urge help for landmark $26 bln opioid settlement

Drug firms say sufficient U.S. states be part of $26 bln opioid settlement to proceed

Nate Raymond

Nate Raymond experiences on the federal judiciary and litigation. He will be reached at [email protected]